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Philosophical And Theological Monism


The systems that identify God and the world range from the crude
materialism of Democritus to the lofty spiritualism of Plotinus. Stoic
cosmology occupies an intermediate position. The Stoic was nominally a
pantheist, but he seems to have oscillated between a spiritual and a
materialist explanation of the universal being. The monist system that
prepared the soil for monophysitism and constantly fostered its growth
was Neo-Platonism. In the hands of Plotinus all the main elements of
spiritual monism were worked up into a speculative philosophy with a
profound bearing on practical life. The world and the human spirit,
for Plotinus, were simply manifestations of God. He taught that, as
light issues from the sun and proceeds forth on its way, growing
gradually dimmer till it passes into darkness, so the world of thought
and thing has no true being apart from God, from whom it proceeded and
to whom it returns. Spiritual monism found in Alexandria a congenial
home. Blending there with oriental mysticism it produced a crop of
gnostic speculative systems, in all of which Acosmism or a denial of
the world was the keynote. Whether the problem was conceived in terms
of being or of value, the result was the same. The world has no true
being. Its appearance of solidity is a sham. It has no value.
Compared with God, it is negligible. It is but the shadow cast by the
eternal sun.

The monophysite tenets traceable to monism will be considered in detail
in later chapters. Here our concern is to show that monism supplies
the metaphysical principle on which the heresy is based; that, as
dualism provides the a priori of Nestorian thought, monism provides
the a priori of monophysite thought.

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