Plotinus, 205 - 270

Plotinus is generally considered the founder of the Neoplatonic school of philosophy, though his philosophical system built upon those of his predecessors, Numenius and Ammonius Saccas.  Many of his sayings were recorded by Amelius.  For the New England Transcendentalists, Plotinus provided intriguing mystical ideas such as the doctrine of the One, the source from which all goodness, truth, and beauty flows.  Through this divine "emanation" the universe remains intrinsically positive: Plotinus, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, held that evil is not real but merely privative--a failure of the soul to harness the good that is immanently present in the universe and available to all.  Plotinus felt that only a faculty superior to both sense and reason, that is, a mystical intuition founded on the personality of the soul, could truly apprehend the infinite.  These ideas formed the basis of transcendental concepts such as Emerson's Over-Soul, Amos Bronson Alcott's theory of Genesis, the possibility of ecstatic union with God, and the perfectibility of humanity through developmental stages.