Where is Ultimate Reality to be Found?

The relation of the individual to the universal had always been a Greek philosophical problem. But Plotinus moved to show that the universal is present in its entirety in all things without losing its universality. He no longer sought rational knowledge of the universal, but a mystical union where individual consciousness disappears. This is a withdrawal from particular forms, and all ethical and intellectual aspects of the world, where the self is lost in contemplation. And it is generally this emphasis on contemplation as the ultimate reality that most conclusively connects Plotinus with the thought of India.

The Upanishads are fundamental to the philosophy of India. The seers of the Upanishads asked: what is the one reality multiplicity is reducible to, what is that which persists without change? This ultimate reality is called Brahman, which comes from the root brh, to grow, burst forth, and suggests a bubbling over, a ceaseless growth similar to the idea of overflowing power in the One, or the Good, the source of all things, of Plotinus’s philosophy.

With the coming of the Upanishads, Vedic hymns and rites were replaced by a search for the one reality behind all flux. This was also a movement from the external to the internal. Just as the key to the Plotinian One is found within the depths of the human self, for the Upanishads, liberation is an internal, not external experience. The goal of the liberated self is not the bliss of heaven or rebirth to a better world, but freedom from the objective, karma, and union with the Absolute, which is not in any “state.” Though Vedic knowledge can lead to Self-knowledge, knowing the Self transcends the entire range of human knowledge.

Neoplatonism and Indian Thought
Neoplatonism and Indian Thought (Studies in Neoplatonism: Ancient and Modern)
Edited by R. Baine Harris

Background on Plotinus


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