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The Enneads (Classics) Paperback – Abridged, 27 Jun 1991

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Product details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Abridged Ed edition (27 Jun. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014044520X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140445206
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 156,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

John Dillon is Regius Professor of Greek at Trinity College in Dublin.


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4.2 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
The Enneads is a staggering vision of unity. The concept of the soul plays a central part. Here's my take at a very brief summation:

1. The source of the soul ... and of everything else lies in a oneness (the One) that can be inferred but never contacted. So the One isn't a personal God. It isn't aware of us, so it doesn't intervene in our affairs.

2. What the soul receives ... are the goodness and intelligence that emanated from the source and are the principal characteristics of our cosmos. We exist in a cosmos that is fundamentally good and intelligent and we can sense and see that.

3. The mixed blessing for the soul ... is embodiment in matter, which, on the positive side, provides a context for helping and for personal growth. In a world of many, the one soul appears as many souls.

4. The downside of that blessing ... are pain, isolation, and the suffering and distraction caused by attachment to material things. Evil is real but we're created in a fundamentally good and intelligent place and with powers to deal with it.

5. The way to live ... includes recognizing that the many souls are in fact one. Individuality is the reward and the price the soul paid to become embodied. Just as the One gives richly via its emanations, so we should give to the cosmos. Enjoy and feel awed by the beauty around and within you.

6. We're no small things ... but a product of the One, of its Intelligence and Soul... each of our souls linked to each other via that one soul.

7. Soul and body go well together. The individual body being material isn't permanent. But the soul and the cosmos are, so the soul re-enters material life via a new body.
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The written teachings of the Greek philospher Plotinus (204/5-270), were gathered into 6 books of 9 chapters (treatises) each, by Porphyry (234-305), his student. Indeed, the term 'Ennead' is Greek and means a 'collection of 9 things'. Porphyry arranged the 56 chapters into what he considered to be a logical and coherent representation of the essence of Plotinian thought. Plotinus was, of course, a lineage descendent of the philosophical school of Plato (429-347BCE), and is viewed by many as a reviver of this system of thought. In this respect, Plotinus is often referred to as 'neo-Platonist' philosopher.

The paperback (1991) edition is brought up to date by John Dillon, and contains 558 numbered pages, and is separated into the following sections:

Stephen Mackenna: A Biographical Sketch - John Dillon (based on ER Dodds memoir).
Extracts from the Explanatory Matter in the First Edition - Mackenna's Original.
The Place of Plotinus in the History of Thought - By Paul Henry.
Plotinus: An Introduction - By John Dillon.
Porphyry: On the Life of Plotinus and the Arrangement of His Work - Mackenna.
Preface: By John Dillon.

1st Ennead: Contains Treatises 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 & 9.
2nd Ennead: Contains Treatises 3, 4 & 9.
3rd Ennead: Contains Treatises 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8.
4th Ennead: Contains Treatises 3, 4 & 8.
5th Ennead: Contains Treatises 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 & 9.
6th Ennead: Contains Treatises 4, 5, 7, 8 & 9.

Appendix I: The Chronological Order of the Tractates.
Appendix II: Index of Platonic References.

Stephen Mackenna (1872-1935) translated the entire Enneads after encountering the text whilst covering the Russian Revolution in St Petersburg in 1905, for the New York World newspaper.
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Format: Paperback
it influenced 10 centuries of European Medieval thought, even though
no European had read it! But important Medieval writers and thinkers like St Augustine and the Pseudo-Dionyseus acted as conduits for his thought.

Plotinus borrowed from all the philosophies of the Classical and Ancient World. At the same time he placed great emphasis on the individual, so in this sense he is a kind of bridge between the modern and ancient worlds. Although his ideas are quarried by later Christian thinkers, Plotinus regards negative acts or behaviour as the product of a lack of intelligence, rather than the later Christian idea of evil itself being a kind of positive force. In fact pure intellect Plotinus regards as intrinsically good. It is this idea that becomes the foundation of Christian mysticism in the West, the idea that it is possible to know God through the intellect. God has three parts, the hightest of which is also a pure intelligence, according to Plotinus, who calls this highest part 'The Good.'

This book is really about the structure and order of Man, the Universe and Everything as it was seen in the late classical period, from a Platonist viewpoint. Interesting sections are on things like Astrology, then seen as a science: 'Are stars causes?'

One of the problems early Christians had is that the New Testament, unlike say Islam, does not provide a model of the Universe, a system ofmetaphysics or a detailed idea of what it is to be human, save in being sinful and requiring redemption. This book, like many others, was used as a source material by theologians such as St Thomas Aquinus, who were trying to construct an intellectual foundation around Christianity.
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