How far this was the result of Neo-Platonic influ­ences, it is not difficult to trace. Professor Browne, for one, is convinced that Sufism is more indebted to the school of Plotinus than to any other influence, and Dr. Nicholson elaborates the theory in detail. There is no doubt that in the golden age of Muslim scholar­ship, the Neo-Platonic philosophy was well known to Muslim students. There are many references in the works of the authors of this time to the doctrines of Plotinus and Porphyry, in addition to those of Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle and other Greek philosophers, clearly indicating that the mystic currents of Greece had found their way into the Muhammadan world. But while recognising the connection between the two mystic schools, we have to deal with two significant questions raised by Professor Browne.

(1) What elements of their philosophy did the Neo-Platonists originally borrow from the East and especially from Persia, which country Plotinus visited expressly to study the system there taught?

(2) To what extent did the seven Neo-Platonic philosophers who took refuge at the Persian Court in the reign of Naushirwan (about A. D. 632) propagate their ideas in that country?

To find an answer to the first query, let us accompany Plotinus in his metaphysical meditations and his journey to the East.

Even though it soars higher than our earthly systems, philosophy, too, has, like things and beings gross and earthly in nature, its ups and downs. In the West it reached its meridian during the days of Plato and Aristotle, but thence the decline was so rapid that, early in the third century after Christ, Plotinus found it tottering midway between doubt and disbelief.

The first Greek philosophers were physicists, and as the external world was the centre of their interest, their philosophy took its stand on natural science to the exclusion of ethics and religion. The claims of ethics, however, could not long be ignored and the systems of Plato and Aristotle sought to adjust its rival claims against those of physics. Popular religion, on the other hand, was neglected, so that while indifferentism or charlatanism enveloped philosophy in total darkness, the need for religious sanction and earnest devotion and reverence began to be felt more strongly than ever, and a new religious, semi-philosophical, semi-speculative mood possessed a few ardent souls.

It is in a mood such as this that we find Plotinus beginning his studies. With bare negations his speculative mind refuses to remain satisfied. Some positive truth he longs for, abstract though it may be. The Dialogues of Plato and the Metaphysics of Aristotle are his constant companions day and night. By themselves, however, they do not promote the growth of his “soul-wings”. He therefore practises austerities which (says Vaughan) his master, Plato, would never have sanctioned. During those studious days of an “angelic life”—“the life of the disembodied in the body”—what commands his heartfelt admiration is the life of Apollonius of Tyana, that gifted Pythagorean philosopher and strange thaumaturgist, whose miracles could earn for him from an uncharitable world no better title than the designation of a compound of magician, impostor and religious fanatic!

It is stated that while still a mere youth Apollonius renounced all the ordinary pleasures of life. “Abjuring the use of flesh and wine, he lived on the simplest fruits of the soil, wore no clothing but linen, and no sandals on his feet, suffered his hair to grow, and slept on the hard ground”. Nor was this all. The Pythagorean penance of five years’ silence he strictly observed, suffering often, without murmur, the most painful trials incidental to such penance. Like the veritable ascetics of the East, he wandered on foot over Assyria and Persia, and thence to the Indus and the Ganges, visiting temples and conversing with the rishis of all these lands. From his visit to the Hill of Sages he returned, an accomplished sage, himself “able to foretell earthquakes and eclipses, to cure the plague, to summon spirits from the unseen world, and to restore the dead to life.”

Here is a portraiture of a living Mahatma, a hierophant as well, and, what is more, a philosopher too, the product of Pythagoreanism and Platonism, mellowed by Zoroastrianism and Hinduism. To what extent the “supernatural powers of the Magi and the Gymnosophists,” which he acquired during his sojourn in the East, assisted Apollonius in dazzling nation after nation with his prophecies and miracles, it is difficult to say. These gifts, however, captured the imagination of Plotinus.