Plotinus Sounds Like a Cult Leader

Eunapius, 456 Life of Porphyry

“Longinus at that time was like a breathing library, a walking museum. And if anyone at all judged ancient poets and criticized one of them, his evaluation did not gain strength unless Longinus’ judgment prevailed first. After [Porphyry] pursued his education in this way and he was admired by all, because he desired to see Rome that greatest city so that he might master the city with his wisdom, then he went there quickly and entered the group with the greatest Plotinus. He completely forgot everyone else and went about dedicating himself to him.

He dedicated himself to his studies hungrily and his original words and inspired teachings, and it was satisfying for that time to be his student, as he himself says. And then because he was overcome by the majesty of his words he hated his body and that he was human.

After he sailed to Sicily to the strait and Charybdis where Odysseus is also said to have sailed, and he could not bear to see any city or to hear the voice of people, and in this way tried to keep the experience of pleasure and pain away from himself. He went across to Lilybaeum which is one of the three promonitories of Sicily, the one that looks out and stretches toward Libya.

He lied down there groaning and self-harming, refusing to take any food and avoiding the travel of humans. But great Plotinus was no poor guard for these things, he followed him by foot….or he was asking some youth who fled from him and found him lying there. He furnished words to him which revived his soul as it was about to fly from his body. And he also strengthened his body enough to meet the return of his soul.”


Λογγῖνος δὲ κατὰ τὸν χρόνον ἐκεῖνον βιβλιοθήκη τις ἦν ἔμψυχος καὶ περιπατοῦν μουσεῖον, καὶ κρίνειν γε τοὺς παλαιοὺς καὶ εἴ τις κατέγνω τινὸς τῶν παλαιῶν, οὐ τὸ δοξασθὲν ἐκράτει πρότερον, ἀλλ᾿ ἡ Λογγίνου πάντως ἐκράτει κρίσις. οὕτω δὲ ἀχθεὶς τὴν πρώτην παιδείαν καὶ ὑπὸ πάντων ἀποβλεπόμενος, τὴν μεγίστην Ῥώμην ἰδεῖν ἐπιθυμήσας, ἵνα κατάσχῃ διὰ σοφίας τὴν πόλιν, ἐπειδὴ τάχιστα εἰς αὐτὴν ἀφίκετο καὶ τῷ μεγίστῳ Πλωτίνῳ συνῆλθεν εἰς ὁμιλίαν, πάντων ἐπελάθετο τῶν ἄλλων, καὶ προσέθετο φέρων ἑαυτὸ ἐκείνῳ. ἀκορέστως δὲ τῆς παιδείας ἐμφορούμενος καὶ τῶν πηγαίων ἐκείνων καὶ τεθειασμένων λόγων, χρόνον μέν τινα εἰς τὴν ἀκρόασιν ἤρκεσεν, ὡς αὐτός φησιν, εἶτα ὑπὸ τοῦ μεγέθους τῶν λόγων νικώμενος, τό τε σῶμα καὶ τὸ ἄνθρωπος εἶναι ἐμίσησε, καὶ διαπλεύσας εἰς Σικελίαν τὸν πορθμὸν καὶ τὴν Χάρυβδιν, ᾗπερ Ὀδυσσεὺς ἀναπλεῦσαι λέγεται, πόλιν μὲν οὔτε ἰδεῖν ὑπέμεινεν, οὔτε ἀνθρώπων ἀκοῦσαι φωνῆς (οὕτω τὸ λυπούμενον αὑτῷ1 καὶ ἡδόμενον ἀπέθετο), συντείνας δὲ ἐπὶ Λιλύβαιον ἑαυτὸν (τὸ δέ ἐστι τῶν τριῶν ἀκρωτηρίων τῆς Σικελίας τὸ πρὸς Λιβύην ἀνατεῖνον καὶ ὁρῶν), ἔκειτο καταστένων καὶ ἀποκαρτερῶν, τροφήν τε οὐ προσιέμενος, καὶ ἀνθρώπων ἀλεείνων πάτον. οὐδ᾿ ἀλαοσκοπιὴν ὁ μέγας εἶχε Πλωτῖνος ἐπὶ τούτοις, ἀλλὰ κατὰ πόδας ἑπόμενος,2 . . . . . . . . . . . . ἢ τὸν ἀποπεφευγότα νεανίσκον ἀναζητῶν, ἐπιτυγχάνει κειμένῳ, καὶ λόγων τε πρὸς αὐτὸν ηὐπόρησε τὴν ψυχὴν ἀνακαλουμένων ἄρτι ἐξίπτασθαι3 τοῦ σώματος μέλλουσαν, καὶ τὸ σῶμα ἔρρωσεν ἐς κατοχὴν τῆς ψυχῆς.

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Porphyry and Plotinus, Getting Serious

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