The magic of Plotinus' Gnostic disciples in the context of Plotinus' school of philosophy

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Spanu, Nicola ; Cardiff University (2013)

This paper aims at providing valuable insight into a topic which has not yet been sufficiently studied: the magical and exorcistic practices of those disciples of Plotinus whom in Ennead II 9 [33] he criticizes for interpreting Plato in a dualistic or ‘Gnostic’ fashion. In chapter 14 of Ennead II 9 [33] Plotinus fiercely criticizes the philosophical assumptions on which the magic practiced by his ‘Gnostic’ disciples was based, but does not refuse magic in itself. In chapter 10 of his Life of Plotinus Porphyry relates that Plotinus was not alien to that sort of magical practice which the Chaldean Oracles call ‘theurgy’, which includes evocation rituals of demons or lesser deities, whose assistance the theurgist can rely on for a variety of purposes, from curing diseases to helping him to obtain the unio mystica with the supreme God. The paper will try to explain the way in which Plotinus’ concept of magic, which he describes in Ennead IV 4 [28] 40-44, differs from his disciples’. The final section of the paper will be focused on pointing out the profound similarities between the magic of Plotinus’ ‘Gnostic’ disciples and the magical and exorcistic rituals described in the Greek Magical Papyri.
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