ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

Chapter IV.

Neo-Platonism and the Systems Which Led Up To It
(From the end of the first century B.C. to the sixth century A.D.)


78. General Character. -- Philosophy becomes Theurgic and Religious. -- The predominance of moral studies had produced, during the period just examined, an extreme distrust for all speculative knowledge. Abandoning all hope of finding certitude and happiness by way of rational speculation, philosophy began to seek for them in communication with the Divine. On the one hand, it placed God far away on heights inaccessible to reason. On the other, it admitted a direct communication of this inscrutable God with the human soul. This communication necessitated the recognition of new processes of knowledge in the soul: ecstatic and mystic intuitions of the subjective order; and the creation, in the objective or real order, of a series of intermediary beings in a descending scale between the inaccessible God and man. Influenced by those tendencies, it was natural that philosophy should incline towards religious doctrines, and towards those systems of the past which betrayed the closest affinities with religion.

External events favoured this characteristic evolution of Grecian philosophy in a very striking way. On the one hand, the philosophical centre of the age was Alexandria, the general rendezvous for three-fourths of the civilized world, a centre in which Grecian philosophy naturally felt the influence of oriental doctrines. On the other hand, in the second century A.D., the decadence of the Roman Empire was rapid. The people and the Caesars alike turned to strange religions, principally Eastern, for that principle of moral force which the depopulated Pantheon no longer afforded; and the introduction of these religions into the public life of the Romans exercised an indirect influence on philosophy.

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