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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary

New Platonics

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Or AMMONIANS, so called from Ammonius Saccas, who taught with the highest applause in the Alexandrian school, about the conclusion of the second century. This learned man attempted a general reconciliation of all sects, whether philosophical or religious. He maintained that the great principles of all philosophical and religious truth were to be found equally in all sects, and that they differed from each other only in their method of expressing them, in some opinions of little or no importance; and that by a proper interpretation of their respective sentiments they might easily be united in one body. Ammonius supposed that true philosophy derived its origin and its consistence from the eastern nations, that it was taught to the Egyptians by Hermes, that it was brought from them to the Greeks, and preserved in its original purity by Plato, who was the best interpreter of Hermes and the other oriental sages. He maintained that all the different religions which prevailed in the world were in their original integrity, conformable to this ancient philosophy: but it unfortunately happened that the symbols and fictions under which, according to the ancient manner, the ancients delivered their precepts and doctrines, were in process of time erroneously understood, both by priests and people, in a literal sense; that in consequence of this, the invisible beings and demons whom the Supreme Deity had placed in the different parts of the universe as the ministers of his providence, were by the suggestions of superstition converted into gods, and worshipped with a multiplicity of vain ceremonies. He therefore insisted that all the religions of all nations should be restored to their primitive standard: viz.

The ancient philosophy of the east: and he asserted that his project was agreeable to the intentions of Jesus Christ, whom he acknowledged to be a most excellent man, the friend of God; and affirmed that his sole view in descending on earth, was to set bounds to the reigning superstition, to remove the errors which had crept into the religion of all nations, but not to abolish the ancient theology from which they were derived. Taking these principles for granted, Ammonius associated the sentiments of the Egyptians with the doctrines of Plato; and to finish this conciliatory scheme, he so interpreted the doctrines of the other philosophical and religious sects, by art, invention, and allegory, that they seemed to bear some semblance to the Egyptian and Platonic systems. With regard to moral discipline, Ammonius permitted the people to live according to the law of their country, and the dictates of nature; but a more sublime rule was laid down for the wise. They were to raise above all terrestrial things, by the towering efforts of holy contemplation, those souls whose origin was celestial and divine. They were ordered to extenuate by hunger, thirst, and other mortifications, the sluggish body, which restrains the liberty of the immortal spirit, that in this life they might enjoy communion with the Supreme Being, and ascend after death, active and unencumbered, to the universal Parent, to live in his presence for ever.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'New Platonics'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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