Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from November, 2017

On Not Knowing (Peter reads the Neoplatonists, part II)

I’ve been reading Greek philosophers.  I formed a neoplatonist book club recently with a couple of Pagan friends, and we’re reading Iamblichus’s On the Mysteries.  I’m plowing through it, chewing on some very dense prose as I try to take in and understand neoplatonist ideas about God and the Gods, time and eternity, body and mind and soul.

I am aware of being very attached to some ideas about the soul.  It’s not all that different from the way Christians cling to their orthodoxy.  Christians (and that includes me when I was younger) will do a lot of mental gymnastics to make their experiences of the world to fit into Christian doctrines they can’t afford to let go of.  Everything new they learn gets reworked and reinterpreted to fit with their core beliefs.

My own attachment, the idea I find myself clinging to, is the idea of an immortal soul.  The reason is simple and obvious: I want to keep going and keep growing after death.  I don’t want it to end.

Personal identity may not survi…

Peter on Reading Neoplatonists (part 1)

Imagine an ice cream factory that fills an entire city block.  You have teaspoon.  You go in the front door and you have to run as fast as you can through the building to the back door and out onto the next street.  Along the way, you get to scrape your spoon across any tubs of ice cream you pass, licking the different flavors as you’re sprinting by, but those tastes are all the ice cream you get.

That’s often what it’s like for me when I start reading in a new subject.  It’s what college was like.  It’s how it was when I first became Wiccan, and when I was doing historical research for a novel, and when I taught physics for the first time.

Now my ice cream is Iamblichus, a neoplatonist philosopher from around the second century C.E.  It’s dense.  It’s technical.  And I’m reading it at breakneck speed to keep up with a sort of neoplatonist book club that we started.

It’s worth it.  As I take in the ideas of Plato and Plotinus and Iamblichus, if find pieces of my spiritual life settli…