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Author Topic: Fathers - Neoplatonism = ?  (Read 1003 times) Average Rating: 0
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Daniel Sunuiprachu
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« on: February 23, 2003, 03:46:31 PM »

Gentle folk,
It is a truism (or was, when I was in grad school) that a great deal of Neoplatonism underlies a number of the Fathers.  For example, one finds Plotinus in St. Augustine, Proclus in Dionysius the A., etc.  More recently, one finds Lorenzo Scupoli in Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain.  I have sometimes found that the debts to the Neoplatonists were perhaps coloring and inevitable educational bias, sometimes that the debts were fundamental to thought and experience (like St. Augustine and St. Monica's ascent towards the end of her life).  My question is whether one may subtract the Neoplatonism from the Fathers with any non-trivial results.  For example, can we subtract from Dionysius the evident Neoplatonism and still find a sound structure of sound Orthodox theology?  
What is riding on this question (so you know how I perceive the stakes) is the curious bifurcation I sense when I read Fathers not obviously Neoplatonic in sensibility; it is as if Neoplatonism invites one to have terrific or mystical experiences which someone like Mother Gavrilia or Elder Porphyrius does not seem to favor.
I look forward to the helpful comments anyone might make.  Cheers, Daniel
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« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2003, 04:11:11 AM »

St. Basil the Great advised young monks to use Greek philosophy as a bee uses the flower. Take only the "honey," ---- the truth --- which God has planted in the world to prepare men for the Coming of the Lord. (from here)
I remember reading somewhere that greek philosophy was a necessary vehicle for the gospel to be properly understood. In a sense the philosophers were to the Greeks what the Old Testament was to the Jews. In at least one of the churches in the monasteries of Mount Athos, they have the greek philosophers depicted in the frescoes on the walls along with the saints (though not depicted as deified, unlike the saints). The Apostle John made use of them (In the beginning was the Word) as did the Apostle Paul so why aren't they considered as being Neoplatonic?

I hope they were helpful comments.

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