This presentation introduces the contemplative thought of Plotinus (c. 205-270 CE), the Greek philosopher who has been called the father of the Western contemplative tradition. Plotinus’s philosophy — today described as ‘Neo-Platonism’ — influenced Christian, Jewish, and Islamic mystics as well as Renaissance humanists and scientists, touching thinkers as diverse as St. Augustine, Rumi, and Kepler. In this talk, we’ll focus on Plotinus’ use of first-person and second-person language to develop an accessible introduction to his account of concentration, mindfulness, and insight, sketching a ‘graded path’ for mental and personal development from Plotinus’s prescriptions for himself and his constructed reader. (This talk builds on recent scholarship in Greek philosophy, but aims to be accessible to a public, nonspecialist audience).

Michael Griffin

University of British Columbia

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