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  • Writer's pictureJohn Hernandez

Finding Beauty, a Classical Perspective




photo by John Hernandez where Plotinus lectured, Alexandria Egypt

In the journey of life, we often find ourselves seeking fulfillment and purpose, yearning to create a life that resonates with our deepest desires and aspirations. Yet, amidst the noise and distractions of the world, it can be easy to lose sight of our true selves and the inherent beauty that lies within. This is where the wisdom of Plotinus, the ancient philosopher, illuminates our path.


“Withdraw into yourself and look.” These simple yet profound words serve as a guiding principle for anyone embarking on the journey of self-discovery. It's an invitation to turn inward, to explore the depths of our being with honesty and introspection. For it is only by confronting ourselves—our fears, our insecurities, our limitations—that we can begin to unlock our full potential.


What if, upon looking within, we find ourselves lacking in beauty and virtue? Plotinus offers a remedy: emulate the sculptor. Just as a sculptor meticulously crafts a masterpiece from a block of marble, so too must we take an active role in shaping our own lives. This requires a willingness to engage in the process of self-transformation, to identify the areas in need of refinement and to take deliberate action to bring about change.


"Cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast." These words speak to the importance of discernment and discernment in our pursuit of personal growth. It's about letting go of the habits, beliefs, and relationships that no longer serve us, and instead, cultivating those that nourish our soul and align with our values.


The journey of self-creation does not end there. It is a lifelong endeavor (The Great Work)—a continuous process of chiseling away at the rough edges of our being, striving always towards the ideal of virtue and goodness. It is through this relentless pursuit of self-improvement that we can hope to one day glimpse the "godlike splendor of virtue" shining forth from within us, illuminating our path with the radiance of our true potential.


So let us heed the words of Plotinus and embark on this journey of self-discovery and self-creation with courage and conviction. For in doing so, we may just uncover the beauty and goodness that has been waiting to emerge from the depths of our souls:




Plotinus

“Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet, act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: he cuts away here, he smooths there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer, until a lovely face has grown upon his work. So do you also: cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labour to make all one glow of beauty and never cease chiselling your statue, until there shall shine out on you from it the godlike splendor of virtue, until you shall see the perfect goodness surely established in the stainless shrine.” ― Plotinus

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