The Neoplatonic Background
The Platonic identification of unity and goodness means that unity of some sort will be a goal in any Platonic philosophical system. But not everything is capable of the same degree of unity. The Neoplatonists are traditionally distinguished from other Platonists by their claim that perfect unity must be beyond being, since all being involves some sort of multiplicity. They give the personal name of “One” to this perfect unity which, since it is prior to all multiplicity, must be regarded in some sense as the cause of all multiplicity. Between the unity of the One and the multiplicity of our world lies the divine intellect, the “One-and-Many.” In the divine intellect, the forms of things are distinct from one another, but each form has all the other forms within it. The form of an oak tree, for instance, is distinct from the form of a rose bush, but it has the form of the rose bush within it, and vice versa. If we could think at the level of the divine intellect, we would remain ourselves, but in ourselves we would be one with all other things and with the gods. Presendy, however, our thought is conditioned by the bodies we inhabit, and bodies can only exist in places, which ensure one kind of unity while prohibiting another. Place holds together in a unity whatever it contains, but it isolates its contents from all other things. A garden, as a place, holds together all the plants that it contains, but it keeps those plants from being one with anything outside the garden.
KeywordsSacred Grove Absolute Space Heavenly Body Sacred Place Symbolic Character
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