The representative figure amongst the Neo-Platonists is Plotinus. His
comprehensive mind gathered up the main threads of Alexandrian thought,
and wove them into the fabric of a vast speculative system. The system
is as much a religion as a philosophy. It is the triumph of
uncompromising monism. The last traces of dualism have been
eradicated. God, for Plotinus, is true being and the only being. He
is all and in a
l. God is an impersonal Trinity, comprising the One,
the cosmic reason and the cosmic soul. The One is primal, ineffable,
behind and beyond all human experience. All we know of Him is that He
is the source and union of reason and soul. Creation is effected by a
continuous series of emanations from God. Emanation is not an
arbitrary act of divine will; it is a necessary consequence of the
nature of the One. God must negate Himself, and the process is
creation. The further the process of negation is carried, the less
reality does the created object possess. Last in the scale comes
matter, which has no self-subsistence, but is the absolute
self-negation of God. We referred in the last chapter to Plotinus'
favourite illustration. We may be allowed, perhaps, to repeat it here.
As light, he says, issues from the sun and grows gradually dimmer,
until it passes by imperceptible degrees into the dark, so reason
emanates from God and, passing through the phases of nature, loses its
essence gradually in its procession, until finally it is derationalised
and becomes its opposite.