"The One as transcending Intellect, transcends knowing... Knowing is a unitary thing, but defined; the first is One, but undefined."
Nothing is known of Plotinus'origins. What we know of his life and writings comes to us through one of his students, Porphyry, who gathered his works together after his death in six groups of nine books, the Enneads . He studied at Alexandria for over eleven years. At the age of forty, he ended up in Rome after the abandonment of a Roman military expedition he had joined in the hope of visiting Persia and India. There, he gained court patronage and spent the rest of his life teaching and writing.
Plotinus created a philosophy that came to be known as Neo-Platonism since it modified Plato's ideas to accommodate ideas derived from Aristotle and the Stoics. Plotinus envisages several interdependent spheres of being. The outermost sphere is that of material things. The most important, the intellect and the soul, emanate from the centre of goodness "the One". Human virtue consisted of contemplation of and participation in the higher levels of reality. The One is unknowable, but an indescribable mystical union with it is possible. Though rare, and difficult to attain, such a union is the aim of man's existence. Plotinus and Neo-Platonism influenced some of the later Christian thinkers to claim that we can say what God is not, but not what God is. We can know God in the sense of becoming one with him, but we can not know about God.