The direct influence of ancient Persian ideas on Neo-platonism and, through it, on Sufism still remains to be ascertained. We have seen that both Plotinus and his master, Apollonius of Tyana, had travelled in Persia and studied the religious and philosophic doctrines prevalent in that country. Long before them Pythagoras had travelled extensively in Asia, and he too had come under the spell of oriental theosophy. We do not discover, however, any ideas in their systems analogous to those of good and evil which form a special feature of Zoroastrianism. Zoroaster was the first prophet and philosopher who enunciated the principles of polarity as they are found to influence sentient existence. The eternal conflict between matter and spirit, good and evil, necessity and free-will he sought to explain and reconcile by means of this theory of polarity. In the theological system of this seer of remote antiquity the highest place is assigned to the All-knowing and All-pervading Spirit, Ahura-Mazda, as the master of all that is good and the principle of all righteousness. But omnipotent though He is, He does not create the universe as He chooses. He acts by fixed laws, one of which is that existence implies polarity and that there can be no good without corresponding evil. He, therefore, allows the twin primeval principles, Spento Mainyush, or the Beneficent Spirit, and Angre Mainyush, or the Maleficent Spirit, full and free scope to exercise their influence on the universe, confident in the belief that good will at last triumph over evil. The duty of the true Zoroastrian, therefore, is to recognise Spento Mainyush, the Intelligence to which Ahura Mazda has committed the care of nature, to adore its attributes and take them as his model, to detest Angre Mainyush, the author of all evil, and to shun his works and snares. Thus man may weaken and bring to an end the tyranny which the evil principle exercises over the world, ensure the victory of the righteous priciple and exalt the glory of the Lord. Although there is nothing in the system of Plotinus to suggest that it was influenced to any appreciable extent by this Zoroastrian doctrine of polarity, there is enough evidence to show that the theo­ries of other Platonist philosophers received a great stimulus from it. Plotinus is believed to have been indebted to Numenius, more than to Ammonius, for some of the ideas peculiar to his system. In dealing with the conflict of good and evil, Numenius appears to have anticipated the hypostases of Plotinus. How could the immutable One create the Manifold without self-degradation? This was the difficulty that oppressed him just as heavily as it did his predecessors and successors. He studied the dogmas of the Egyptians, the Persians, and the Buddhists and, in the light of the knowledge thus acquired, he tried to solve the enigma by means of a hypostatic emanation. He posits in the Divine Nature three principles in a descending scale so that his order of existence is as follows:—

1. God, the Absolute.

2. The Demiurge, who is the artificer, in a sense, the imitator of the former. He contemplates matter, yet he is himself separate from it. He is the Agent of God, the Absolute, for the creation of the material universe and man, and is good, for goodness is the original principle of Being. As, however this second Hypostasis is engaged in the contemplation of matter, it does not attain the supreme self-contemplation of the first.

3. Substance or Essence, of a twofold character, corresponding to the two former. The universe is the copy of the third Principle.

Spento-Mainyush is clearly discernible here, although Angre Mainyush is veiled.

The last great name among the Neo-Platonists is that of Proclus, “learned in the lore of symbols and oracles and in the rapt utterances of Orpheus and of Zoroaster.” He elaborated the trinity of Plotinus into a succession of Triads reminiscent of the influence of Zoroastrianism. Without, however, being dogmatic on this point we may simply note the broad and incontrovertible facts which emerge from this survey of the Neo-Platonic philosophy, namely, that several of the ancient philosophers of Greece had drunk freely at the fountain of Zoroastrian theology and that there was a complete fusion of the ideas of the East and West in the different systems of philosophy, with which their names have been associated. When, therefore, the seven Neo-platonic philosophers took shelter in Persia, during the reign of Naushirwan, and entertained the people of that land with the nectar of Greek philosophy, they merely poured, so to say, old wine in new bottles. Naushirwan was a patron of science and learning. It was, therefore, natural that the seven philosophers, Hermias, Eulalias, Priscian, Damascius, Isidore and Simplicius, who were driven from their homes by the persecution of Justinian, should have thought of taking refuge at his court. There is no record extant of what the philosophers did there. We find, however, that under the Persian monarch’s orders the works of the most celebrated Greek and Sanskrit authors were translated in Pahlavi and that a medical school was established at Jund-i-Shapur, which expanded into an academy in which philosophy and rhetoric were taught. This school disseminated in the East a knowledge of Greek science and created a taste for philosophic and medical studies. We have, further, the testimony of Renan that the Aristotelian studies pursued in this Academy gave the first impulse to Arabic lexicology.