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May 16, 2022


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"...I still agree with a lot in Return to the One..."

I'm curious, Brian, what precisely in Plotinus do you think carries any actual worth today? A detailed exhaustive discussion may be too much work, but perhaps a brief bullet or two?

Where I'm coming from is, sure, the poetic aspects of that kind of thing, that's cool. As is the historical aspect, the getting lost in the minds of people, and very smart and wise people, of literally millennia ago. And finally, there's the fact that it is these very giants on whose shoulders we stand today, so that absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt we owe appreciation, and gratitude, and respect, to these giant intellects.

But, all of that said: Is there anything at all of actual worth in Plotinus, that we might find factually useful, in this day and age? If so I'm curious what. (Or do you mean general philosophical stuff, I mean to do with ethics and morals and whatnot, maybe some esthetics, some politics, that sort of thing? If so, sure, I understand, and don't disagree.)

Hi again AR

There is no 'back to
You are no drop

You are The Ocean

You never were not

SHE just wanted to see what it is to be A.R. in total amnesia

I find that a marvellous idee , Among One of a zillion other hyper geniall idees ,
creations that have nothing to do with Sound and Light; I mean Light
SHE is busy like That such a long time; . . .


Appreciative Reader, here's my "brief bullet" response to your comment, which raised some good issues. Basically, I now view Plotinus' Neoplatonic teachings much as I do Buddhist teachings. They are based on the thinking of people who lived in pre-scientific times, so it doesn't make sense to view them so much through the light of what we know now scientifically, but in terms of broad conceptual theories about us and the cosmos. So...

(1) I enjoy Plotinus because he was a rational mystic. He wasn't religious in any sense. He didn't appeal to revelation. He didn't believe in a personal God, which he called the One. He viewed no person's opinion as being more important than truth. He encouraged his students to think for themselves, to debate, to reason together, to defend their ideas in an open forum. All these qualities strike me as being very much applicable to how people should approach spirituality today.

(2) His view of the One, the ground of being yet also beyond being, is appealing. After all, existence must always have existed in some form, since something can't come from absolutely nothing. Modern science is still searching for that ground of being. Relativity theory and quantum theory are incompatible in that regard. Maybe science will discover what lies at the heart of reality. But another possibility is that this won't happen, perhaps because the human brain isn't capable of that discovery, so the "One" will remain ineffable, beyond words/concepts/equations, as Plotinus taught.

(3) Plotinus taught that understanding of the One can't be attained so long as it is viewed as an object to be known, since it is the source of all knowledge and is beyond parts. Likewise, he taught that we can't know our own being so long as we view ourselves as an object to be known, since that leaves us with a knower separate from the known. So now we're left with the problem of knowing the knower -- an endless recursion. So just as with the One, Plotinus encourages us to leave behind sensations, thoughts, emotions, and other contents of consciousness so pure consciousness itself can be experienced.

I'm now dubious that pure consciousness exists. But it's a tenable hypothesis, one that some neuroscientists embrace, or at least take seriously, Sam Harris for one. He tends to describe consciousness as an open sky that can hold anything that comes within it, just as birds, clouds, planes, and such pass through the physical sky while leaving it untouched. It does make sense to me that I should be able to experience life directly, without being aware of a distinction between me and what is being experienced. This is the notion of flow and of mindfulness, essentially.

While this might seem dualistic, it really isn't, since consciousness, like empty space, can't be observed directly. As Harris often says, our sense of concentration during meditation or other times is another aspect of consciousness. It's one more thing within the empty space of consciousness. And Einstein proved that empty space isn't really empty, since the presence of mass warps that space, producing gravity. Thus unseen entities can be the foundation of reality, either subjective or objective reality.

YOU, are in this business such a long time . . . eternities


It is difficult to point to anyone as a source of truth, historical or current. How could we do so?
At best we use our own criteria, limited by what we can't see, don't know, forgot, or are in denial of.

Generally, in current times, we pick political leaders as our role models. Unfortunately, time and expose tends to show the foolishness in this.

Modern science hasn't made human beings wiser about the human condition, unfortunately, only informed in a more detailed way. If science shows the similarity of all human beings, war and weapons escalation only demonstrates that this information hasn't made us much wiser at all. Only easier to control and kill.

Two people view the same scientific facts in two different ways, even when they both agree to the facts themselves. Where did Wisdom go?

Science surely heals, enslaves and kills wholesale. It is an unparalleled achievement, that we have a means to understand the complexities of the world. Not something science invented. Something science attempts to describe.

And there is applied science where we do indeed invent. And marvelous inventions at that! The cell phone makes us all, as Elon Musk pointed out, cyborgs with a hive mind.

I'm curious, Appreciative Reader, as to whom you believe today speaks with high value and wisdom, and what the basis of that is, in evidence. Who are the models you might point to and say "this is a very wise person" and what the basis of that view is?

Or more pointedly, who is wiser, today, than Plotinus? And why?

He had factual limitations, but wisdom, just as Socrates and Christ.
But who today has the wisdom you honor, and what is the basis for setting that value?

I value and love my Master because he gave me meditation, and when I am concerned about life's ebbs and flows, I find comfort in his words. But I also find comfort in the words of Rumi, Leo Tze, and Plotinus. I like the stoic tradition where only the leather needed to cover the foot is reasonable and no more. And I like the words of Ghandi, that "All Men Are Brothers," and the towering statement of Sawan Singh: "No one has the right to call God their Father until they can call all men their Brothers!"

These things appeal to me. But I have no actual objective scale to measure them. Do you?

Brain repeats here :

"Plotinus encourages us to leave behind sensations, thoughts, . . "

Yes some seconds without THOUGHTS, And we will know
But that s unbelievebly difficult
One thing does it : Love
Every Puber knows it

Therefore Saints exist : To Love Them AND His Words

Makes sense !

Nothing else can stop thoughts 5 seconds even
I'm going to read your book on Him Brian,
He must have given some 'hints'
because One couldn't say everything without being poisened


@ 777 : [ Brian: "Plotinus encourages us to leave behind sensations, thoughts, . . "
----------- 777: Yes some seconds without THOUGHTS, And we will know
----------- 777: But that s unbelievebly difficult. One thing does it : Love

A 4 minute video from Ishwar Puri on how to "leave behind THOUGHT" :


Ni Dungegeness

This was a very nice demonstration
but love didn t come in the demonstration

Now observe a 13 year old puber in her/his first intensive crush
A crush , many of us remember : so to say "pre-love" ,
They cannot eat, cannot sleep, . . they are 24/7 totally obsessed with the
object og the crush
It influences already greatly the thoughts,

Now later in life you meet an Saint capable to let say hypnotize you in
a thousand times stronger crush , love
He gives some tools to absorb all that better and yes
when you arrive at a million times the intensity
your mind is knocked out and strange magnifivients things start to occur
to the point that later on you think :I would have died if that continued
Charan said :
Love is to be ONE with another Being

So, Imagine to be ONE with somebody who is already used to be ONE
with HIS Saint , . . . with the Almighty

That is it - These peaks can occur every moment but are greatly enhanced by the tools
like some words to repeat
It's not in our hands when where and how to love
It s God that will decide

When The Ocean comes to you as a Lover, don't hesitate, Be Quick
marry Him


In this sense I liked so much the question "Can we kiss forever?"
and the META physical answer is YES , because we can be HIM, we always were HIM
How else you would propose filling eternity than with LOVE


What interests me in your Blog, Brian Ji, is your choice of topic. Plotinus wrote almost exclusively about the Soul and its connection to the physical body as separate things. For Plotinus these were considered entirely separate, though connected. And he went into extensive detail to examine how this could be. How can corruption be part of the incorruptible? How can darkness be any part of light?

This is also part and parcel of Sant Mat. But your philosophy asks, and I believe rightly, how can these be separate? If we really are One, how can the One be separate from anything else? These must all be One, but seen or understood separately due to our own level of awareness.

Plotinus makes huge and simplistic assumptions about the soul that, to refer to Appreciative Reader, we don't do today. We understand so much more about the human brain and body, it's multiple intelligences, and different levels of consciousness, even at different times of the day, different levels of attention and awareness, that to read Plotinus today seems quaint and parochial.

Science, Zen, and a broader understanding really has changed the dialogue entirely. Not to say meditation or worship do not have powerful benefits, but in ways quite different from the philosophical speculations made eons ago. Awareness, intelligence, the ability to view, to observe, our very consciousness is a complex product of a lot of things, intimate with the human brain, in many ways arising from it, and not a stand alone absolute.

If, Brian Ji, your work has done anything, it has established this fact. And reinforced in current science and philosophy around awareness. Today we do not call it soul. We call it conscious awareness, and that has many sources and levels.

Thanks for that clarification, Brian. I was curious what that part of it was about.

You’re right, it isn’t quite fair to view the thinking of people who lived in pre-scientific times through the light of what, thanks to science, we know today. Agreed, absolutely.

And, also agreed, back in those days, to be able to put forward an approach that doesn’t kowtow to existing tradition and instead encourages independent enquiry --- regardless of the nature of the enquiry --- that, for those times, must have been a very radical thing to do. Actually that’s one of the things I admire, very much, about the Buddha and his teachings, quite apart from their actual content I mean to say: I’m referring to how he exhorts people to junk all kinds of authority, qua authority, and rely instead on one’s own personal enquiry and discernment. (Of course, some/much of his teachings --- the Buddha’s, I mean to say, not Plotinus’s --- have ended up evolving/degenerating/mutating into forms that are, in effect, the exact antithesis of that principle; but that of course is a separate matter, and a separate discussion.)

Plotinus’s actual thesis about Oneness, however, if you’ll pardon the plainspeak, appears …not very impressive, to me. I mean, it’s very interesting, absolutely, but only when seen and recognized as no more than unsupported speculation. It’s also super impressive, when you consider that this is someone speaking from a good 2,500 or so years ago! But in as much as all of this remains utterly divorced from actual empiricism --- which is not his fault, of course, science had simply not been invented then, like you point out, so it isn’t fair to judge him by that yardstick, I agree --- and therefore not informed by that essential feedback mechanism of science that distinguishes wild speculation from actual, factual theory, to that extent, and in common with all non-empirical philosophers, no matter how brilliant, it isn’t quite a serious enquiry/understanding/description/critique of reality.

That is what sets apart a Sam Harris from a Plotinus --- and this would apply even if turns out that Sam Harris himself draws inspiration from the likes of Plotinus. I mean the fact that Sam Harris recognizes his unevidenced conjecture to be just that; and that he works to actually validate his ideas; and that only after actual validation does he elevate his ideas to the level of considering it a theory to be taken seriously. All of which is not to say Plotinus is necessarily wrong, of course: he may well turn out to be right, after all; but, if he does, then that would be a matter of sheer happenstance.

But to say all of that is, I guess, to state the obvious. As you point out succinctly right at the outset in your comment, and I agree.

Hello, 777. *waves*

Thanks for your lovely comment. AR would be thrilled if he one day finally discovered the ‘she’ that’s at the bottom of it all. Especially if she turns out to be hot! (Hm, there’s an element of weirdness, effectively onanic, in the self-referential nature of that thought, but what the heck: cosmic orgasm is a thing, after all, in mysticism.)

Hi, Spence.

Who do I find wise? Lots and lots of people. Certainly Plotinus, without a shadow of a doubt. I sit humbly at Plotinus’s feet, listening to (Brian’s account of) the wisdom of this giant of a man, who, an astonishing ~2500 years ago, was able to formulate such lofty ideas.

But while I find Plotinus (and many, many, many other like him) wise and impressive and interesting; and I guess as far as my instincts I might even find myself agreeing with some of what he says; but I don’t look to his “teachings” as a likely description of what reality amounts to. For that I look to science.

(Which, like I spelt out in some detail in my comment addressed to Brian, is not to diminish those teachings in any way, nor is to claim that he’s necessarily wrong; but, like I discussed in some detail in that comment, it’s simply speculation, this kind of unsubstantiated unevidenced philosophizing, all of it, no matter how impressive the formulation.)


“Plotinus makes huge and simplistic assumptions about the soul that, to refer to Appreciative Reader, we don't do today. We understand so much more about the human brain and body, it's multiple intelligences, and different levels of consciousness, even at different times of the day, different levels of attention and awareness, that to read Plotinus today seems quaint and parochial.”

……….Not quite where I was coming from, actually.

I don’t necessarily think Plotinus was simplistic. And in any case, “simplistic” isn’t necessarily a shortcoming. It’s essentially a question of how ‘true’ an idea or an explanation is. And that is where Plotinus comes up short --- through no fault of his, of course, it's just that he lived well before the methods of science were invented, but still, that does take away from his ideas, no matter their intuitive brilliance, at least in terms of amounting to a description of reality.

And although we do know so much more today than we did then, I’m afraid our ideas of soul continue to be quite as quaint as his had been --- even if in some cases there’s a great deal of complexity that’s come in (and in some cases not even that). Because, again, complexity per se isn’t necessarily a virtue: it’s a question of how ‘true’ the idea of soul is, how correctly it interprets our reality. Simply retrofitting in what science is so painstakingly uncovering into broad ideas of soul, and in the process adding complexity to the paradigm, does not bring the model closer to reality. To do that --- that is, to actually bring it closer to reality --- will necessarily involve starting afresh, and following the evidence. To do that will be to countenance the possibility, or rather the likelihood, that there simply is no soul at all. To do that will, as I see it, involve treating the soul as merely a conjecture, a speculation, no more: to be studied and researched, certainly, if that is what one wants, but not seen as fact, not until the evidence actually bears that out, not until that has been scientifically established.

*That* is my issue with Plotinus. Not his simplicity, which I kind of like actually.

Hi Brian Ji
You wrote to AR...
"(2) His view of the One, the ground of being yet also beyond being, is appealing. After all, existence must always have existed in some form, since something can't come from absolutely nothing."

Perhaps all that exists comes from nothing. Maybe they are lovers.

Nothing is very important, it seems to me. Everything science has discovered was once believed to be nothing. All those principles we know about now, at one point folks believed," nothing there."

Nothing is huge. It's everything we don't know.

"It is the empty hub of the wheel that gives all purpose to the spokes of the wheel and upon which they depend. It is the empty space in the vase that gives the vase all purpose, design and beauty."

You might say that nothing really reflects our ignorance. But when you watch the formation of stars they just seem to emerge from nothing, and all things seem to go back there at some point.

Dark matter? Well, if we need to call it something. Empty space? As you pointed out, all time and gravity, the forces that hold matter together and run the motion of planets, requires nothing.

Every quantity can only be measured in a system that starts with zero.

All reference to time requires a zero reference point. And same with all of space and matter.

I humbly suggest that nothing is actually the start of everything. Everything merges from absolutely nothing, though we may only be able to measure things. Yet in every measurement, the standard must be based upon zero.

Power abhors a vacuum, but without a vacuum there is no movement. Without longing there is no passionate reunion.

Nothing is real, or the unreal that makes everything real exist.

If Plotinus thought there must always be something, he was wrong. But I suspect he may have meant something else. It was so long ago, afterall. Did anything real exist back then? Maybe not.

You wrote
"And although we do know so much more today than we did then, I’m afraid our ideas of soul continue to be quite as quaint as his had been --- even if in some cases there’s a great deal of complexity that’s come in (and in some cases not even that). Because, again, complexity per se isn’t necessarily a virtue: it’s a question of how ‘true’ the idea of soul is,"

I'm wondering if the word soul is actually obsolete and unnecessary to understand our experience. I believe it is a word that has no actual relevance anymore. It has been replaced with more factual terminology that gets to the heart of our experience far better.

To say there is more to us than body is to short change what body really is.

To say there is more to us than mind is to short change what mind really is.

The word soul, if anything, is a placeholder for what cannot be described, and what may not exist. It may be the great nothing from which we all emerge.

But I think, AR, you have established that things that cannot be measured or proven in any practical way do not carry any value in discussion.

Has your view shifted from this practical position?

Because my view has shifted to it.
My view now fully embraces that nothing is a very real and practical reality.

And that the word soul is obsolete.

@ 777 : [ This was a very nice demonstration but love didn t come in the demonstration.]

I agree with you, 777. You've stated, along with Rumi, the final lesson.

Ishar was reminding us... me... only of the preliminary lesson: you don't
have the power to stop or overcome thought on your own. It takes an
Ocean to sweep away.

"But I think, AR, you have established that things that cannot be measured or proven in any practical way do not carry any value in discussion."

..........No, Spence, I'm not saying that.

Anything and everything has value, that we happen to see value in. Anything and everything is fair grounds for discussion. For speculation. For research even, if we're so inclined.

But yes, it is only that which can be "proven" (using that word loosely and colloquially to mean evidenced and validated by science) that can reasonably be taken to reflect reality (as best we can apprehend it at any point in time).

Sure, we may, in individual cases, and basis our own individual predilections, choose to play around with a parameter here and another one there, depending, but in essence the above paragraph sums up what I've come to believe is the reasonable approach to understanding reality.

T Y to love Rumi and Plotinus
U got it


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