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Ascending Further with Mateusz Stróżyński

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We talk further about Plotinus’ spiritual practice, asking some irresponsible questions and receiving some illuminating, irresponsible answers. Topics include:

  • The irresponsible but perennially-interesting question of philosophical exegesis versus experience in the formation of Plotinus’ thought, and the way in which Plotinus excels at injecting life into metaphysics,
  • The question of reconstructing late-ancient teaching-lineages, through which Platonist meditative techniques might have been transmitted,
  • More on the ‘imaginal exercises’ found in the Enneads, and how difficult they are actually to do,
  • A disquisition, sparked by Plotinus’ question as to where exactly ‘matter’ is supposed to exist in the cosmic scheme, moving through Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus the Confessor, John Scotus Eriugena, and then Newton, Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, Malebranche, Mach, all of whom find reasons to doubt the ‘thingness’ of matter, with a Dingen-an-Sich riposte by Kant, followed by a quick rebuttal by Fichte, and
  • Reading the Enneads considered as a spiritual practice in its own right.

Interview Bio:

Mateusz Stróżyński (born 1979) is classicist, philosopher, psychologist and psychotherapist. He is interested in contemplation and spiritual exercises in ancient philosophy, primarily in the Platonist tradition (Plotinus and Augustine), but he has also published on Marcus Aurelius and the medieval Christian mystic Angela of Foligno. He is an associate professor in the Institute of Classical Philology at Adam Mickiewicz University (AMU) in Poznań, Poland, and the Director of the Institute since January 2021. His plans for the nearest future include an international research project on Angela of Foligno and heterodox Franciscan movements ca. 1270-1320 (awarded recently by the National Science Centre in Poland) as well as completing a book on the contemplation of the intelligible world in Plotinus.

Works Cited in this Episode:

Many of the Plotinian passages cited in this and the previous episode are to be found in handy, dandy, English-translated form here: Plotinian Spiritual Practices.


  • Augustine on reading Plotinus (if the platonicorum libros are indeed his; many scholars cite Porphyry here) and having his mind blown: Confessions, 7.9.13 – 7.10.16 and 7.17.23.
  • Gregory of Nyssa, bodies are conglomerates of qualities in our souls; there are no material things: De anima et resurrectione 93, 14 – 94, 15 , ed. A. Spira, Brill 2014. English (not the best, but the only version available online).
  • Plotinus, ‘Truth is what it says it is’: V.3[49]5.25-6.


  • Jacques Maritain, Approaches to God, New York 1962, Ch. 3 “A Sixth Way”, pp. 67-76.

Recommended Reading:

  • Bishop George Berkeley. A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge. Aaron Rhames, Dublin, 1710.
  • Jonardon Ganeri, editor. Indian Logic: A Reader. Routledge, London/New York, NY, 2001.