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Neo-Platonism

General survey

A system of idealistic, spiritualistic philosophy, tending towards mysticism, which flourished in the pagan world of Greece and Rome during the first centuries of the Christian era. It is of interest and importance, not merely because it is the last attempt of Greek thought to rehabilitate itself and restore its exhausted vitality by recourse to Oriental religious ideas, but also because it definitely entered the service of pagan polytheism and was used as a weapon against Christianity. It derives its name from the fact that its first representatives drew their inspiration from Plato's doctrines, although it is well known that many of the treatises on which they relied are not genuine works of Plato. It originated in Egypt, a circumstance which would, of itself, indicate that while the system was a characteristic product of the Hellenistic spirit, it was largely influenced by the religious ideals and mystic tendencies of Oriental thought.

To understand the neo-Platonic system in itself, as well as to appreciate the attitude of Christianity towards it, it is necessary to explain the two-fold purpose which actuated its founders. On the one hand, philosophical thought in the Hellenic world had proved itself inadequate to the task of moral and religious regeneration. Stoicism, Epicureanism, Eclecticism and even Scepticism had each been set the task of "making men happy ", and each had in turn failed. Then came the thought that Plato's idealism and the religious forces of the Orient might well be united in one philosophical movement which would give definiteness, homogeneity, and unity of purpose to all the efforts of the pagan world to rescue itself from impending ruin. On the other hand, the strength and, from the pagan point of view, the aggressiveness of Christianity began to be realized. It became necessary, in the intellectual world, to impose on the Christians by showing that Paganism was not entirely bankrupt, and, in the political world, to rehabilitate the official polytheism of the State by furnishing an interpretation of it, that should be acceptable in philosophy. Speculative Stoicism had reduced the gods to personifications of natural forces; Aristotle had definitely denied their existence ; Plato had sneered at them. It was time, therefore, that the growing prestige of Christianity should be offset by a philosophy which, claiming the authority of Plato, whom the Christians revered, should not only retain the gods but make them an essential part of a philosophical system. Such was the origin of Neoplatonism. It should, however, be added that, while the philosophy that sprang from these sources was Platonic, it did not disdain to appropriate to itself elements of Aristoteleanism and even Epicureanism, which it articulated into a Syncretic system.

Forerunners of Neoplatonism

Among the more or less eclectic Platonists who are regarded as forerunners of the Neoplatonic school, the most important are Plutarch, Maximus, Apuleius, Aenesidemus, Numenius. The last-mentioned, who flourished towards the end of the second century of the Christian era, had a direct and immediate influence on Plotinus, the first systematic neo-Platonist. He taught that there are three gods, the Father, the Maker (Demiurgos), and the World. Philo the Jew (see PHILO JUDAEUS), who flourished in the middle of the first century, was also a forerunner of Neoplatonism, although it is difficult to say whether his doctrine of the mediation of the Logos had a direct influence on Plotinus.

Ammonius Saccas

Ammonius Saccas, a porter on the docks of Alexandria, is regarded as the founder of the Neoplatonic school. Since he left no writings, it is impossible to say what his doctrines were. We know, however, that he had an extraordinary influence over men like Plotinus and Origen, who willingly abandoned the professional teachers of philosophy to listen to his discourses on wisdom. According to Eusebius, he was born of Christian parents, but reverted to paganism. The date of his birth is given as 242.

Plotinus

Plotinus, a native of Lycopolis in Egypt, who lived from 205 to 270 was the first systematic philosopher of the school. When he was twenty-eight years old he was taken by a friend to hear Ammonius, and thenceforth for eleven years he continued to profit by the lectures of the porter. At the end of the first discourse which he heard, he exclaimed: "This man is the man of whom I was in search." In 242 he accompanied the Emperor Gordian to Mesopotamia, intending to go to Persia. In 244 he went to Rome, where, for ten years, he taught philosophy, counting among his hearers and admirers the Emporer Gallienus and his wife Solonia. In 263 he retired to Campania with some of his disciples, including Porphyry, and there he died in 270. His works, consisting of fifty-four treatises, were edited by Porphyry in six groups of nine. Hence they are known as the "Enneads".The "Enneads" were first published in a Latin translation by Marsilius Ficinus (Florence, 1492); of recent editions the best are Breuzer and Moser's (Oxford, 1855), and Kirchoff's (Leipzig, 1856). Parts of the "Enneads" are translated into English by Taylor (London, 1787-1817).

Plotinus' starting-point is that of the idealist. He meets what he considers the paradox of materialism, the assertion, namely, that matter alone exists, by an emphatic assertion of the existence of spirit. If the soul is spirit, it follows that it cannot have originated from the body or an aggregation of bodies. The true source of reality is above us, not beneath us. It is the One, the Absolute, the Infinite. It is God. God exceeds all the categories of finite thought. It is not correct to say that He is a Being, or a Mind. He is over-Being, over-Mind. The only attributes which may be appropriately applied to Him are Good and One. If God were only One, He should remain forever in His undifferentiated unity, and there should be nothing but God. He is, however, good; and goodness, like light, tends to diffuse itself. Thus from the One, there emanates in the first place Intellect ( Nous ), which is the image of the One, and at the same time a partially differentiated derivative, because it is the world of ideas, in which are the multiple archetypes of things. From the intellect emanates an image in which there is a tendency to dynamic differentiation, namely the World-soul, which is the abode of forces, as the Intellect is the abode of Ideas. From the World-Soul emanates the Forces (one of which is the human soul ), which, by a series of successive degradations towards nothing become finally Matter, the non-existent, the antithesis of God. All this process is called an emanation, or flowing. It is described in figurative language, and thus its precise philosophical value is not determined. Similarly the One, God, is described as light, and Matter is said to be darkness. Matter, is, in fact, for Plotinus, essentially the opposite of the Good; it is evil and the source of all evil. It is unreality and wherever it is present, there is not only a lack of goodness but also a lack of reality. God alone is free from Matter; He alone is Light; He alone is fully real. Everywhere there is partial differentiation, partial darkness, partial unreality; in the intellect, in the World-Soul, in Souls, in the material universe. God, the reality, the spiritual, is, therefore, contrasted with the world, the unreal, the material. God is noumenon, everything else is appearance, or phenomenon.

Man, being composed of body and soul, is partly, like God, spiritual, and partly like matter, the opposite of spiritual. It is his duty to aim at returning to God by eliminating from his being, his thoughts, and his actions, everything that is material and, therefore, tends to separate him from God. The soul came from God. It existed before its union with the body; its survival after death is, therefore, hardly in need of proof. It will return to God by way of knowledge, because that which separates it from God is matter and material conditions, which are only illusions or deceptive appearances. The first step, therefore in the return of the soul to God is the act by which the soul, withdrawing from the world of sense by a process of purification ( katharsis ), frees itself from the trammels of matter. Next, having retired within itself, the soul contemplates within itself the indwelling intellect. From the contemplation of the Intellect within, it rises to a contemplation of the Intellect above, and from that to the contemplation of the One. It cannot, however, reach this final stage except by revelation, that is, by the free act of God, Who, shedding around Him the light of His own greatness, sends into the soul of the philosopher and saint a special light which enables it to see God Himself. This intuition of the one so fills the soul that it excludes all consciousness and feeling, reduces the mind to a state of utter passivity, and renders possible the union of man with God. The ecstasy ( ekstasis ) by which this union is attained is man's supreme happiness, the goal of all his endeavor, the fulfillment of his destiny. It is a happiness which receives no increase by continuance of time. Once the philosopher-saint has attained it, he becomes confirmed, so to speak, in grace. Henceforth forever, he is a spiritual being, a man of God, a prophet, and a wonder-worker. He commands all the powers of nature, and even bends to his will the demons themselves. He sees into the future, and in a sense shares the vision, as he shares the life, of God.

Porphyry

Porphyry, who in beauty and lucidity of style excels all the other followers of Plotinus, and who is distinguished also by the bitterness of his opposition to Christiani, was born A.D. 233, probably at Tyre. After having studied at Athens, he visited Rome and there became a devoted disciple of Plotinus, whom he accompanied to Campania in 263. He died about the year 303. Of his work "Against the Christians " only a few fragments, preserved in the works of the Christian Apologists, have come down to us. From these it appears that he directed his attack along the lines of what we should now call historical criticism of the Old Testament and the comparative study of religions. His work "De Antro Nympharum" is an elaborate allegorical interpretation and defence of pagan mythology. His Aphormai (Sentences) is an exposition of Plotinus's philosophy. His biographical writings included "Lives" of Pythagoras and Plotinus in which he strove to show that these "god-sent" men were not only models of philosophic sanctity but also thaumatourgoi , or "wonder-workers", endowed with theurgic powers. The best known of all his works is a logical treatise entitled eosagoge , or "Introduction to the Categories of Aristotle". In a Latin translation made by Boethius, this work was very widely used in the early Middle Ages, and exerted considerable influence on the growth of Scholasticism. It is, as is well known, a passage in this "Isagogue" that is said to have given occasion to the celebrated controversy concerning universals in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In his expository works on the philosophy of Plotinus, Porphyry lays great stress on the importance of theurgic practices. He holds, of course, that the practices of asceticism are the starting-point on the road to perfection. One must begin the process of perfection by "thinning out the veil of matter" (the body), which stands between the soul and spiritual things. Then, as a means of further advancement, one must cultivate self-contemplation. Once the stage of self-contemplation is attained, further progress towards perfection is dependent on the consultation of oracles, divination, bloodless sacrifices to the superior gods and bloody sacrifices to demons, or inferior powers.

Iamblichus

Iamblichus, a native of Syria, who was a pupil of Porphyry in Italy, and died about the year 330, while inferior to his teacher in power of exposition, seemed to have a firmer grasp of the speculative principles of Neoplatonism and modified more profoundly the metaphysical doctrines of the school. His works bear the comprehensive title "Summary of Pythagorean Doctrines". Whether he or a disciple of his is the author of the treatise "De Mysteriis Aegyptiorum" (first pub. by Gale, Oxford, 1678, and afterwards by Parthey, Berlin, 1857), the book is a product of his school and proves that he, like Porphyry, emphasized the magic, or theurgic, factor in the Neoplatonic scheme of salvation. As regards the speculative side of Plotinus's system, he devoted attention to the doctrine of emanation, which he modified in the direction of completeness and greater consistency. The precise nature of the modification is not clear. It is safe, however, to say that, in a general way, he forestalled the effort of Proclus to distinguish three subordinate "moments", or stages, in the process of emanation.

While these philosophical defenders of neo-Platonism were directing their attacks against Christianity, representatives of the school in the more practical walks of life, and even in high places of authority, carried on a more effective warfare in the name of the school. Hierocles, pro-consul of Bithynia during the reign of Diocletian (284-305), not only persecuted the Christians of his province, but wrote a work, now lost, entitled "The discourse of a Lover of Truth, against the Christians ", setting up the rival claims of neo-Platonic philosophy. He, like Julian the Apostate, Celsus, and others, was roused to activity chiefly by the claim which Christianity made to be, not a national religion like Judaism, but a world-wide, or universal, religion. Julian sums up the case of philosophy against Christianity thus: "Divine government is not through a special society (such as the Christian Church ) teaching an authoritative doctrine, but through the order of the visible universe and all the variety of civic and national institutions. The underlying harmony of these is to be sought out by free examination, which is philosophy." (Whittaker, "Neo- Platonists ", p. 155). It is in the light of this principle of public policy that we must view the attempt of Iamblichus to furnish a systematic defence of Polytheism. Above the One, he says, is the Absolutely First. From the One, which is thus itself a derivative, comes intellect, which, as the Intellectual and the Intelligible, is essentially dual. Both the Intellectual and the Intelligible are divided into triads, which are the superterrestrial gods. Beneath these and subordinate to them, are the terrestrial gods whom he subdivides into three hundred and sixty celestial beings, seventy-two orders of sub-celestial gods, and forty-two orders of natural gods. Next to these are the semi-divine heroes of mythology and the philosopher-saints such as Pythagoras and Plotinus. From this it is evident that neo-Platonism had by this time ceased to be a purely academic question. It had entered very vigorously into the contest waged against Christianity. At the same time, it had not ceased to be the one force which could claim to unify the surviving remnants of pagan culture. As such, it appealed to the woman-philosopher Hypatia, whose fate at the hands of a Christian mob at Alexandria, in the year 422, was cast up as a reproach to the Christians (see CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA). Among the contemporaries of Hypatia at Alexandria was another Hierocles, author of a commentary on the Pythagorean "Golden Verses".

Proclus

Proclus, the most systematic of all the Neoplatonists, and for that reason known as "the scholastic of neo-Platonism", is the principal representative of a phase of philosophic thought which developed at Athens during the fifth century, and lasted down to the year 529, when, by an edict of Justinian, the philosophic schools at Athens were closed. The founder of the Athenian school was Plutarch, surnamed the Great (not Plutarch of Chaeronea, author of the "Lives of Illustrious Men"), who died in 431. his most distinguished scholar was Proclus, who was born at Constantinople in 410, studied Aristotelean logic at Alexandria, and about the year 430 became a pupil of Plutarch at Athens. He died at Athens in 485. He is the author of several Commentaries on Plato, of a collection of hymns to the gods, of many works on mathematics, and of philosophical treatises, the most important of which are: "Theological Elements", stoicheiosis theologike , (printed in the Paris ed. of Plotinus's Works); "Platonic Theology" (printed, 1618, in a Latin translation by Aemilius Portus); shorter treatises on Fate, on Evil, on xxyyyk.htm">Providence, etc. which exist only in a Latin translation made by William of Moerbeka in the thirteenth century. These are collected in Cousin's edition, "Procli Opera", Paris, 1820-1825. Proclus attempted to systematize and synthesize the various elements of neo-Platonism by means of Aristotelean logic. The cardinal principle upon which his attempt rests is the doctrine, already foreshadowed by Iamblichus and others, that in the process of emanation there are always three subordinate stages, or moments, namely the original ( mone ), emergence from the original ( proodos ), and return to the original ( epistrophe ). The reason of this principle is enunciated as follows: the derived is at once unlike the original and like it; its unlikeness is the cause of its derivation, and its likeness is the cause, or reason, of the tendency to return. All emanation is, therefore, serial. It constitutes a "chain" from the One down to the antithesis of the One, which is matter. By the first emanation from the One come to "henades", the supreme gods who exercise providence over worldly affairs; from the henades comes the "triad", intelligible, intelligible-intellectual, and intellectual, corresponding to being, life, and thought; each of these is, in turn, the origin of a "hebdomad", a series corresponding to the chief divinities of the pagan pantheon: from these are derived "forces", or " souls ", which alone are operative in nature, although, since they are the lowest derivatives, their efficacy is least. Matter, the antithesis of the One, is inert, dead, and can be the cause of nothing except imperfection, error, and moral evil. The birth of a human being is the descent of a soul into matter. The soul, however, may ascend, and redescend in another birth. The ascension of the soul is brought about by asceticism, contemplation, and the invocation of the superior powers by magic, divination, oracles, miracles, etc.

The Last Neoplatonists

Proclus was the last great representative of neo-Platonism. His disciple, Marinus, was the teacher of Damascius, who represented the school at the time of its suppression by Justinian in 529. Damascius was accompanied in his exile to Persia by Simplicius, celebrated as a neo-Platonic commentator. About the middle of the sixth century John Philoponus and Olympiadorus flourished at Alexandria as exponents of Neoplatonism. They were, like Simplicius, commentators. When they became Christians, the career of the school of Plato came to an end. The name of Olympiadorus is the last in the long line of scholarchs which began with Speusippus, the disciple and nephew of Plato.

Influence of Neoplatonism

Christian thinkers, almost from the beginning of Christian speculation, found in the spiritualism of Plato a powerful aid in defending and maintaining a conception of the human soul which pagan materialism rejected, but to which the Christian Church was irrevocably committed. All the early refutations of psychological materialism are Platonic. So, too, when the ideas of Plotinus began to prevail, the Christian writers took advantage of the support thus lent to the doctrine that there is a spiritual world more real than the world of matter. Later, there were Christian philosophers, like Nemesius (flourished c. 450), who took over the entire system of neo-Platonism so far as it was considered consonant with Christian dogma . The same may be said of Synesius ( Bishop of Ptolemais, c. 41), except that he, having been a pagan, did not, even after his conversion, give up the notion that Neoplatonism had value as a force which unified the various factors in pagan culture. At the same time there were elements in Neoplatonism which appealed very strongly to the heretics, especially to the Gnostics, and these elements were more and more strongly accentuated in heretical systems: so that St. Augustine, who knew the writings of Plotinus in a Latin translation, was obliged to exclude from his interpretation of Platonism many of the tenets which characterized the neo-Platonic school. In this way, he came to profess a Platonism which in many respects is nearer to the doctrine of Plato's "Dialogues" than is the philosophy of Plotinus and Proclus. The Christian writer whose neo-Platonism had the widest influence in later times, and who also reproduced most faithfully the doctrines of the school, is the Pseudo-Dionysius. The works "De Divinis Nominibus", "De hierarchia coelesti", etc., are now admitted to have been written at the end of the fifth, or during the first decades of the sixth, century. They are from the pen of a Christian Platonist, a disciple of Proclus, probably an immediate pupil of that teacher, as is clear from the fact that they embody, not only Proclus's ideas, but even lengthy passages from his writings. The author, whether intentionally on his part, or by some mistake on the part of his readers, came to be identified with Dionysius who is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as a convert of St. Paul. Later, especially in France, he was further identified with Dionysius the first Bishop of Paris. Thus it came about that the works of the Pseudo-Areopagite, after having been used in the East, first by the Monophysites and later by the Catholics, became known in the West and exerted a widespread influence all through the Middle Ages. They were translated into Latin by John Scotus Eriugena about the middle of the ninth century, and in this form were studied and commented on, not only by mystic writers, such as the Victorines, but also by the typical representatives of Scholasticism, such as St. Thomas Aquinas. None of the later scholastics, however, went the full length of adopting the metaphysics of the Pseudo-Areopagite in its essential principles, as did John Scotus Eriugena in his "De divisione naturae".

After the suppression of the Athenian school of philosophy by Justinian in 529, the representatives of neo-Platonism went, as we have seen, to Persia. They did not remain long in that country. Another exodus, however, had more permanent consequences. A number of Greek neo-Platonists who settled in Syria carried with them the works of Plato and Aristotle, which, having been translated into Syriac, were afterwards translated into Arabic, Hebrew, and Latin, and thus, towards the middle of the twelfth century, began to re-enter Christian Europe through Moorish Spain. These translations were accompanied by commentaries which continued the neo-Platonic tradition commenced by Simplicius. At the same time a number of anonymous philosophical works, written for the most part under the influence of the school of Proclus, some of which were ascribed to Aristotle, began to be known in Christian Europe, and were not without influence on Scholasticism. Again, works like the "Fons vitae" of Avicebrol, which were known to be of Jewish or Arabian origin, were neo-Platonic, and helped to determine the doctrines of the scholastics. For example, Scotus's doctrine of materia primo-prima is acknowledged by Scotus himself to be derived from Avicebrol. Notwithstanding all these facts, Scholastic philosophy was in spirit and in method Aristotelean ; it explicitly rejected many of the neo-Platonic interpretations, such as the unity of the Active Intellect. For this reason all unprejudiced critics agree that it is an exaggeration to describe the whole Scholastic movement as merely an episode in the history of neo-Platonism. In recent times this exaggerated view has been defended by M. Picavet in his "Esquisse d'une histoire comparée des philosophies médiévales" (Paris, 1907).

The neo-Platonic elements in Dante's "Paradiso" have their origin in his interpretation of the scholastics. It was not until the rise of Humanism in the fifteenth century that the works of Plotinus and Proclus were translated and studied with that zeal which characterized the Platonists of the Renaissance. It was then, too, that the theurgic, or magic, elements in Neo-Platonism were made popular. The same tendency is found in Bruno's "Eroici Furori", interpreting Plotinus in the direction of materialistic pantheism. The active rejection of Materialism by the Cambridge Platonists in the seventeenth century carried with it a revival of interest in the neo-Platonists. An echo of this appears in Berkeley's "Siris", the last phase of his opposition to materialism. Whatever neo-Platonic elements are recognizable in the transcendentalists, such as Schelling and Hegel, can hardly be cited as survivals of philosophic principles. They are rather inspirational influences, such as we find in Platonizing poets like Spenser and Shelley.

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Necessity, in a general way, denotes a strict connection between different beings, or the ...

Neckam, Alexander of

( Or Necham.) English scholar, born in Hertfordshire, 1157; died at Kempsey, Worcestershire, ...

Necrologies

Necrologies, or, as they are more frequently called in France, obituaires , are the registers ...

Necromancy

( nekros , "dead", and manteia , "divination") Necromancy is a special mode of divination ...

Nectarius

( Nechtarios ), Patriarch of Constantinople, (381-397), died 27 Sept, 397, eleventh bishop of ...

Negligence

( Latin nec , not, and legere , to pick out). The condition of not heeding. More ...

Nehemiah, Book of

Also called the second Book of Esdras (Ezra), is reckoned both in the Talmud and in the early ...

Neher, Stephan Jakob

Church historian ; b. at Ebnat, 24 July, 1829; d. at Nordhausen, 7 Oct., 1902. His family were ...

Nemore, Jordanus (Jordanis) de

The name given in manuscripts of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries to a mathematician who ...

Nemrod

Also N IMROD ( nmrd of uncertain signification, Septuagint Nebród ). The name of ...

Neo-Platonism

General survey A system of idealistic, spiritualistic philosophy, tending towards mysticism, ...

Neo-Pythagorean Philosophy

The ethico-religious society founded by Pythagoras, which flourished especially in Magna ...

Neo-Scholasticism

Neo-Scholasticism is the development of the Scholasticism of the Middle Ages during the latter ...

Neocæsarea

A titular see, suffragan of Hierapolis in the Patriarchate of Antioch sometimes called ...

Neocæsarea

A titular see of Pontus Polemoniacus, at first called Cabira, one of the favourite residences ...

Neophyte

Neophyte ( neophytoi , the newly planted, i.e. incorporated with the mystic Body of Christ), a ...

Nephtali

(A.V., N APHTALI ) Sixth son of Jacob and Bala ( Genesis 30:8 ). The name is explained ...

Nepi and Sutri

Nepi and Sutri (Nepsin et Sutrin), united sees of the province of Rome, central Italy, in the ...

Nepveu, Francis

Writer on ascetical subjects, b. at St. Malo, 29 April, 1639; entered the novitiate of the ...

Nereus and Achilleus, Domitilla and Pancratius, Saints

The commemoration of these four Roman saints is made by the Church on 12 May, in common, and ...

Neri, Antonio

Florentine chemist, born in Florence ln the sixteenth century; died 1614, place unknown. We have ...

Neri, Saint Philip Romolo

THE APOSTLE OF ROME. Born at Florence, Italy, 22 July, 1515; died 27 May, 1595. Philip's ...

Nerinckx, Charles

Missionary priest in Kentucky, founder of the Sisters of Loretto at the Foot of the Cross, born ...

Nero

Nero, the last Roman emperor (reigned 54-68) of the Julian-Claudian line, was the son of Domitius ...

Nerses I-IV

Armenian patriarchs. Nerses I Surnamed "the Great". Died 373. Born of the royal stock, he ...

Nerses of Lambron

Born 1153 at Lambron, Cilicia; died 1198; son of Oschin II, prince of Lambron and nephew of the ...

Nestorius and Nestorianism

I. THE HERESIARCH Nestorius, who gave his name to the Nestorian heresy, was born at Germanicia, ...

Netherlands, The

( German Niederlande ; French Pays Bas ). The Netherlands, or Low Countries, as organized by ...

Netter, Thomas

Theologian and controversialist, b. at Saffron Waldon, Essex, England, about 1375; d. at Rouen, ...

Neugart, Trudpert

Benedictine historian, born at Villingen, Baden, 23 February, 1742; died at St Paul's ...

Neum

(Latin, neuma, pneuma, or neupma, from Greek pneûma, a nod). A term in medieval ...

Neumann, Johann Balthasar

Born 1687 at Eger; died 1753 at Würzburg, master of the rococo style and one of the ...

Neumayr, Franz

Preacher, writer on theological, controversial and ascetical subjects, and author of many ...

Neusohl

Diocese of Neusohl (Hung. Beszterczebànya; Lat. Neosoliensis), founded in 1776 by Maria ...

Neutra

(Nitria; Nyitha) -- Diocese of Neutra (Nitriensis). Diocese in Western Hungary, a suffragan of ...

Nevada

A Western state of the United States , bounded on the North by Oregon and Idaho, on the East ...

Neve

Titular see of Arabia, suffragan of Bostra. Two of its bishops are known: Petronius, who ...

Nevers

(Nivernum) Diocese ; includes the Department of Nièvre, in France. Suppressed by the ...

Neville

(1) Edmund Neville ( alias Sales), a Jesuit, born at Hopcut, Lancashire, 1605; died in ...

New Abbey

The Abbey of Sweetheart, named New Abbey Pow, or New Abbey, in order to distinguish it, from ...

New Caledonia

VICARIATE APOSTOLIC New Caledonia, one of the largest islands of Oceania, lies about 900 miles ...

New Guinea

The second largest island and one of the least known countries of the world, lies immediately ...

New Hampshire

The most northerly of the thirteen original states of the United States, lying between 70°37' ...

New Jersey

One of the original thirteen states of the American Union. It ratified the Federal Constitution ...

New Mexico

A territory of the United States now (Jan., 1911) awaiting only the completion of its ...

New Norcia

A Benedictine abbey in Western Australia, founded on 1 March, 1846, by a Spanish Benedictine, ...

New Orleans

ARCHDIOCESE OF NEW ORLEANS (NOVÆ AURELIÆ). Erected 25 April, 1793, as the Diocese of ...

New Pomerania

New Pomerania, the largest island of the Bismarck Archipelago, is separated from New Guinea by ...

New Testament

I. Name ; II. Description ; III. Origin ; IV. Transmission of the Text ; V. Contents, History, ...

New Testament, Canon of the

The Catholic New Testament, as defined by the Council of Trent, does not differ, as regards the ...

New Year's Day

The word year is etymologically the same as hour (Skeat), and signifies a going, movement ...

New York (Archdiocese)

ARCHDIOCESE OF NEW YORK (NEO-EBORACENSIS). See erected 8 April, 1808; made archiepiscopal 19 ...

New York (State)

One of the thirteen colonies of Great Britain, which on 4 July, 1776, adopted the Declaration of ...

New Zealand

New Zealand—formerly described as a colony—has, since September, 1907, by royal ...

Newark

(NOVARCENSIS) Diocese created in 1853, suffragan of New York and comprising Hudson, Passaic, ...

Newbattle

( Neubotle , i.e. new dwelling). Newbattle, in the ancient Diocese of St. Andrews, about ...

Newdigate, Blessed Sebastian

Executed at Tyburn, 19 June, 1535. A younger son of John Newdigate of Harefield Place, Middlesex, ...

Newfoundland

A British colony of North America (area 42,734 square miles), bounded on the north by the Strait ...

Newhouse, Abbey of

The Abbey of Newhouse, near Brockelsby, Lincoln, the first Premonstratensian abbey in England, ...

Newman, John Henry

(1801-1890) Cardinal-Deacon of St. George in Velabro, divine, philosopher, man of letters, ...

Newport (England)

(NEOPORTENSIS) This diocese takes its name from Newport, a town of about 70,000 inhabitants, ...

Newton, John

A soldier and engineer, born at Norfolk, Virginia, 24 August, 1823; died in New York City, 1 May, ...

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Ni 70

Niagara University

Niagara University, situated near Niagara Falls, New York, is conducted by the Vincentians. It ...

Nicéron, Jean-Pierre

A French lexicographer, born in Paris, 11 March, 1685, died there, 8 July, 1738. After his ...

Nicaea

Titular see of Bithynia Secunda, situated on Lake Ascanius, in a fertile plain, but very ...

Nicaea, First Council of

First Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church, held in 325 on the occasion of the heresy of ...

Nicaea, Second Council of

Seventh Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church, held in 787. (For an account of the ...

Nicaragua

(REPUBLIC AND DIOCESE OF NICARAGUA; DE NICARAGUA) The diocese, suffragan of Guatemala, is ...

Nicastro

(NEOCASTRENSIS). A city of the Province of Catanzaro, in Calabria, southern Italy, situated ...

Niccola Pisano

Architect and sculptor, b. at Pisa about 1205-07; d. there, 1278. He was the father of modern ...

Nice

(NICIENSIS) Nice comprises the Department of Alpes-Maritimes. It was re-established by the ...

Nicene Creed

As approved in amplified form at the Council of Constantinople (381), it is the profession of the ...

Nicephorus, Saint

Patriarch of Constantinople, 806-815, b. about 758; d. 2 June, 829. This champion of the orthodox ...

Nicetas

(NICETA) A Bishop of Remesiana (Romatiana) in what is now Servia, born about 335; died ...

Nicetius, Saint

A Bishop of Trier, born in the latter part of the fifth century, exact date unknown; died in ...

Niche

A recess for the reception of a statue, so designed as to give it emphasis, frame it effectively, ...

Nicholas Garlick, Venerable

Priest and martyr, born at Dinting, Derbyshire, c. 1555; died at Derby, 24 July, 1588. He ...

Nicholas I, Saint, Pope

Born at Rome, date unknown; died 13 November, 867. One of the great popes of the Middle ...

Nicholas II, Pope

(GERHARD OF BURGUNDY) Nicholas was born at Chevron, in what is now Savoy ; elected at Siena, ...

Nicholas III, Pope

(GIOVANNI GAETANI ORSINI) Born at Rome, c. 1216; elected at Viterbo, 25 November, 1277; died ...

Nicholas IV, Pope

(GIROLAMO MASCI) Born at Ascoli in the Rome, 4 April, 1292. He was of humble extraction, ...

Nicholas Justiniani

Date of birth unknown, became monk in the Benedictine monastery of San Niccoló del Lido ...

Nicholas of Cusa

German cardinal, philosopher, and administrator, b. at Cues on the Moselle, in the Archdiocese ...

Nicholas of Flüe, Blessed

(D E R UPE ). Born 21 March, 1417, on the Flüeli, a fertile plateau near Sachseln, ...

Nicholas of Gorran

(Or GORRAIN) Medieval preacher, and scriptural commentator; b. in 1232 at Gorron, France ; ...

Nicholas of Lyra

( Doctor planus et utilis ) Exegete, b. at Lyra in Normandy, 1270; d. at Paris, 1340. The ...

Nicholas of Myra, Saint

( Also called NICHOLAS OF BARI). Bishop of Myra in Lycia; died 6 December, 345 or 352. ...

Nicholas of Osimo

(AUXIMANUS). A celebrated preacher and author, b. at Osimo, Italy, in the second half of the ...

Nicholas of Strasburg

Mystic ; flourished early in the fourteenth century. Educated at Paris, he was later on lector ...

Nicholas of Tolentino, Saint

Born at Sant' Angelo, near Fermo, in the Hermits of St. Augustine -- a star above him or on his ...

Nicholas Owen, Saint

A Jesuit lay-brother, martyred in 1606. There is no record of his parentage, birthplace, date ...

Nicholas Pieck, Saint

(Also spelled PICK). Friar Minor and martyr, b. at Gorkum, Holland, 29 August, 1534; d. at ...

Nicholas V, Pope

(TOMMASO PARENTUCELLI) A name never to be mentioned without reverence by every lover of ...

Nichols, Venerable George

(Or NICOLLS). English martyr, born at Oxford about 1550; executed at Oxford, 19 October, ...

Nicholson, Francis

A controversial writer; b. at Manchester, 1650 ( baptized 27 Oct.); d. at Lisbon, 13 Aug., 1731. ...

Nicodemus

A prominent Jew of the time of Christ, mentioned only in the Fourth Gospel . The name is of ...

Nicodemus, Gospel of

(Or the Gospel of Nicodemus.) This work does not assume to have written by Pilate, but to have ...

Nicolò de' Tudeschi

("abbas modernus" or "recentior", "abbas Panormitanus" or "Siculus") A Benedictine canonist, ...

Nicolaï, Jean

Celebrated Dominican theologian and controversialist, b. in 1594 at Mouzay in the Diocese of ...

Nicolaites

(Also called Nicolaitans), a sect mentioned in the Apocalypse (ii,6,15) as existing in ...

Nicolas, Armella

Popularly known as "La bonne Armelle", a saintly French serving-maid held in high veneration among ...

Nicolas, Auguste

French apologist, b. at Bordeaux, 6 Jan., 1807; d. at Versailles 18 Jan., 1888. He first studied ...

Nicolaus Germanus

(Often called "Donis" from a misapprehension of the title "Donnus" or "Donus" an abbreviated form ...

Nicole, Pierre

Theologian and controversialist, b. 19 October, 1625, at Chartres, d. 16 November, 1695, at ...

Nicolet

(NICOLETANA) Diocese in the Province of Quebec, Canada, suffragan of Quebec. It comprises the ...

Nicomedes, Saint

Martyr of unknown era, whose feast is observed 15 September. The Roman Martyrologium and the ...

Nicomedia

Titular see of Bithynia Prima, founded by King Zipoetes. About 264 B.C. his son Nicodemes I ...

Nicopolis

A titular see, suffragan of Sebasteia, in Armenia Prima. Founded by Pompey after his decisive ...

Nicopolis

(NICOPOLITANA) Diocese in Bulgaria. The city of Nicopolis (Thrace or Moesia), situated at the ...

Nicopolis

A titular see and metropolis in ancient Epirus. Augustus founded the city (B.C. 31) on a ...

Nicosia

A city of the Province of Catania, in Sicily situated at a height of about 2800 feet above the ...

Nicosia

Titular archdiocese in the Province of Cyprus. It is now agreed (Oberhummer' "Aus Cypern" in ...

Nicotera and Tropea

(NICOTERENSIS ET TROPEIENSIS) Suffragan diocese of Reggio di Calabria. Nicotera, the ancient ...

Nider, John

Theologian, b. 1380 in Swabia; d. 13 August, 1438, at Colmar. He entered the Order of Preachers ...

Nieremberg y Otin, Juan Eusebio

Noted theologian and polygraphist, b. of German parents at Madrid, 1595; d. there, 1658. ...

Niessenberger, Hans

An architect of the latter part of the Middle Ages, whose name is mentioned with comparative ...

Niger, Peter George

(NIGRI, German SCHWARTZ) Dominican theologian, preacher and controversialist, b. 1434 at ...

Nigeria

A colony of British East Africa extending from the Gulf of Guinea to Lake Chad (from 4° 30' ...

Nihilism

The term was first used by Turgeniev in his novel, "Fathers and Sons" (in "Russkij Vestnik", Feb., ...

Nihus, Barthold

Convert and controversialist, b. at Holtorf in Hanover, 7 February, 1590 (according to other ...

Nikolaus von Dinkelsbühl

Theologian, b. c. 1360, at Dinkelsbühl; d. 17 March, 1433, at Mariazell in Styria. He ...

Nikon

Patriarch of Moscow (1652-1658; d. 1681). He was of peasant origin, born in the district of ...

Nilles, Nikolaus

Born 21 June, 1828, of a wealthy peasant family of Rippweiler, Luxemburg ; died 31 January, ...

Nilopolis

A titular see and a suffragan of Oxyrynchos, in Egypt. According to Ptolemy (IV, v, 26) the ...

Nilus the Younger

Of Rossano, in Calabria; born in 910, died 27 December, 1005. For a time he was married (or ...

Nilus, Saint

( Neilos ) Nilus the elder, of Sinai (died c. 430), was one of the many disciples and ...

Nimbus

(Latin, related to Nebula, nephele , properly vapour, cloud), in art and archaeology signifies ...

Nimrod

Also N IMROD ( nmrd of uncertain signification, Septuagint Nebród ). The name of ...

Ninian, Saint

(NINIAS, NINUS, DINAN, RINGAN, RINGEN) Bishop and confessor ; date of birth unknown; died ...

Nirschl, Joseph

Theologian and writer, b. at Durchfurth, Lower Bavaria, 24 February, 1823; d. at ...

Nisibis

A titular Archdiocese of Mesopotamia, situated on the Mygdonius at the foot of Mt. Masius. It is ...

Nithard

Frankish historian, son of Angilbert and Bertha, daughter of Charlemagne ; died about 843 or ...

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No 65

Noah

[Hebrew Nôah , "rest"; Greek Noah ; Latin Noah ]. The ninth patriarch of the ...

Noah's Ark

The Hebrew name to designate Noah's Ark, the one which occurs again in the history of Moses' ...

Noailles, Louis-Antoine de

Cardinal and bishop, b. at the Château of Teyssiére in Auvergne, France, 27 May, ...

Nobili, Robert de'

Born at Montepulciano, Tuscany, September, 1577; died at Mylapore, India, in 1656. He entered the ...

Noble, Daniel

Physician, b. 14 Jan., 1810; d. at Manchester, 12 Jan, 1885. He was the son of Mary Dewhurst and ...

Nocera

DIOCESE OF NOCERA (NUCERINENSIS) Diocese in Perugia, Umbria, Italy, near the sources of the ...

Nocera dei Pagani

(NUCERIN PAGANORUM; dei Pagani ="of the Pagans") Diocese in Salermo, Italy, at the foot of ...

Nocturns

( Nocturni or Nocturna ). A very old term applied to night Offices. Tertullian speaks of ...

Nogaret, Guillaume de

Born about the middle of the thirteenth century at St. Felix-en-Lauragais; died 1314; he was one ...

Nola

(NOLANA) Diocese ; suffragan of Naples. The city of Nola in the Italian Province of Caserta, ...

Nola, Giovanni Marliano da

Sculptor and architect, b., it is said, of a leather merchant named Giuseppe, at Nola, near ...

Nolasco, Saint Peter

Born at Mas-des-Saintes-Puelles, near Castelnaudary, France, in 1189 (or 1182); died at ...

Nollet, Jean-Antoine

Physicist, b. at Pimpré, Oise, France, 19 November, 1700; d. at Paris, 25 April, 1770. His ...

Nominalism, Realism, Conceptualism

These terms are used to designate the theories that have been proposed as solutions of one of the ...

Nomination

The various methods of designating persons for ecclesiastical benefices or offices have been ...

Nomocanon

(From the Greek nomos , law, and kanon , a rule) A collection of ecclesiastical law, the ...

Non Expedit

("It is not expedient"). Words with which the Holy See enjoined upon Italian Catholics the ...

Non-Jurors

The name given to the Anglican Churchmen who in 1689 refused to take the oath of allegiance to ...

Nonantola

A former Benedictine monastery and prelature nullius , six miles north-east of Modena ...

Nonconformists

A name which, in its most general acceptation, denotes those refusing to conform with the ...

None

This subject will be treated under the following heads: I. Origin of None; II. None from the ...

Nonnotte, Claude-Adrien

Controversialist; b. in Besançon, 29 July, 1711; d. there, 3 September, 1793. At nineteen ...

Nonnus

Nonnus, of Panopolis in Upper Egypt (c. 400), the reputed author of two poems in hexameters; ...

Norbert, Saint

Born at Kanten on the left bank of the Rhine, near Wesel, c. 1080; died at Magdeburg, 6 June, ...

Norbertines

(C ANONICI R EGULARES P RÆMONSTRATENSES ). Founded in 1120 by St. Norbert at ...

Norcia

(NORSIN). A diocese and city in Perugia, Italy, often mentioned in Roman history. In the ...

Norfolk, Catholic Dukes of

(Since the Reformation) Under this title are accounts only of the prominent Catholic Dukes of ...

Noris, Henry

Cardinal, b. at Verona, 29 August, 1631, of English ancestry; d. at Rome, 23 Feb., 1704. He ...

Normandy

An ancient French province, from which five "departments" were formed in 1790: ...

Norris, Sylvester

( Alias SMITH, NEWTON). Controversial writer and English missionary priest ; b. 1570 or ...

Norsemen

The Scandinavians who, in the ninth and tenth centuries, first ravaged the coasts of Western ...

North Carolina

One of the original thirteen States of the United States, is situated between 33° 53' and ...

North Dakota

One of the United States of America , originally included in the Louisiana Purchase. Little was ...

Northampton

(NORTANTONIENSIS) Diocese in England, comprises the Counties of Northampton, Bedford, ...

Northcote, James Spencer

Born at Feniton Court, Devonshire, 26 May, 1821; d. at Stoke-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, 3 March, ...

Northern Territory

(Prefecture Apostolic) The Northern Territory, formerly Alexander Land, is that part of ...

Northmen

The Scandinavians who, in the ninth and tenth centuries, first ravaged the coasts of Western ...

Norton, Christopher

Martyr ; executed at Tyburn, 27 May, 1570. His father was Richard Norton of Norton Conyers, ...

Norway

Norway, comprising the smaller division of the Scandinavian peninsula, is bounded on the east by ...

Norwich, Ancient Diocese of

(NORDOVICUM; NORVICUM). Though this see took its present name only in the eleventh century, ...

Notaries

( Latin notarius ). Persons appointed by competent authority to draw up official or authentic ...

Notburga

Jean-Baptiste Belgian statesman, b. 3 July, 1805, at Messancy, Luxemburg ; d. at Berlin, 16 ...

Notburga, Saint

Patroness of servants and peasants, b. c. 1265 at Rattenberg on the Inn; d. c. 16 September, 1313. ...

Nothomb, Jean-Baptiste

Jean-Baptiste Belgian statesman, b. 3 July, 1805, at Messancy, Luxemburg ; d. at Berlin, 16 ...

Notitia Dignitatum

(Register of Offices). The official handbook of the civil and military officials in the later ...

Notitia Provinciarum et Civitatum Africae

(List of the Provinces and Cities of Africa). A list of the bishops and their sees in the ...

Notitiae Episcopatuum

The name given to official documents that furnish for Eastern countries the list and hierarchical ...

Notker

Among the various monks of St. Gall who bore this name, the following are the most important: ...

Noto

(NETEN). Noto, the ancient Netum and after the Saracen conquest the capital of one of the ...

Notoriety, Notorious

( Latin Notorietas, notorium , from notus , known). Notoriety is the quality or the ...

Notre Dame de Montreal, Congregation of

Marguerite Bourgeoys, the foundress, was born at Troyes, France, 17 April, 1620. She was the ...

Notre Dame, School Sisters of

A religious community devoted to education. In the United Sates they have conducted parish ...

Notre Dame, Sisters of (of Cleveland, Ohio)

A branch of the congregation founded by Blessed Julie Billiart. In 1850, Father Elting of ...

Notre Dame, University of

(Full name is the University of Notre Dame du Lac ). Notre Dame is located in Northern ...

Notre-Dame de Namur, Institute of

Founded in 1803 at Amiens, France, by Bl. Julie Billiart (b. 1751 d. 1816) and ...

Notre-Dame de Sion, Congregation of

Religious institute of women, founded at Paris in May 1843, by Marie-Théodore and ...

Nottingham

(NOTTINGHAMIEN) One of the original twelve English dioceses created at the time of the ...

Nourrisson, Jean-Felix

Philosopher, b. at Thiers, Department of Puy-de-Dôme, 18 July, 1825; d. at Paris, 13 June, ...

Nova Scotia

I. GEOGRAPHY Nova Scotia is one of the maritime provinces of Canada. It forms part of what was ...

Novara

(NOVARIENSIS). A diocese and the capital of the province of Novara, Piedmont, Italy, noted ...

Novatianism

Novatian was a schismatic of the third century, and founder of the sect of the Novatians; he ...

Novatus, Saint

St. Novatus, who is mentioned on 20 June with his brother, the martyr Timotheus, was the son of ...

Novello, Blessed Agostino

(Matteo Di Termini), born in the first half of the thirteenth century, at Termini, a village of ...

Novena

(From novem , nine.) A nine days' private or public devotion in the Catholic Church to ...

Novice

I. DEFINITION AND REQUIREMENTS The word novice , which among the Romans meant a newly acquired ...

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Nu 19

Nubia

Located in North-eastern Africa, extending from Sennar south to beyond Khartoum and including the ...

Nueva Cáceres

(NOVA CACERES) Diocese created in 1595 by Clement VIII ; it is one of the four suffragan ...

Nueva Pamplona

(NEO-PAMPILONENSIS). Diocese in Colombia, South America, founded in 1549 and a see erected by ...

Nueva Segovia

(NOVAE SEGOBIAE) Diocese in the Philippines, so called from Segovia, a town in Spain. The town ...

Nugent, Francis

Priest of the Franciscan Capuchin Order, founder of the Irish and the Rhenish Provinces of said ...

Nugent, James

Philanthropist, temperance advocate and social reformer b. 3 March, 1822 at Liverpool ; d. 27 ...

Numbers, Use of, in the Church

No attentive reader of the Old Testament can fail to notice that a certain sacredness seems to ...

Numismatics

(From the Greek nomisma , "legal currency") Numismatics is the science of coins and of ...

Nun of Kent

Born probably in 1506; executed at Tyburn, 20 April, 1534; called the "Nun of Kent." The career of ...

Nunc Dimittis

(The Canticle of Simeon). Found in St. Luke's Gospel (2:29-32) , is the last in historical ...

Nuncio

An ordinary and permanent representative of the pope, vested with both political and ...

Nunez, Pedro

(Pedro Nonius). Mathematician and astronomer, b. at Alcacer-do-Sol, 1492; d. at Coimbra, ...

Nuns

I. ORIGIN AND HISTORY The institution of nuns and sisters, who devote themselves in various ...

Nuptial Mass

"Missa pro sponso et sponsa", the last among the votive Masses in the Missal. It is composed of ...

Nuremberg

(NÜRNBERG) The second largest city in Bavaria, situated in a plain on both sides of the ...

Nusco

(N USCANA ) Diocese in the province of Avellino, Italy, suffragan of Salerno ; dates from ...

Nussbaum, Johannn Nepomuk von

German surgeon, b. at Munich 2 Sept., 1829; d. there 31 Oct., 1890. He made his studies in the ...

Nutter, Robert, Ven.

English martyr ; b. at Burnley, Lancashire, c. 1550; executed at Lancaster, 26 July, 1600. He ...

Nuyens, Wilhelmus

Historian, b. 18 August, 1823, at Avenhorn in Holland ; d. 10 December, 1894, at Westwoud near ...

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Ny 4

Nyassa

Vicariate Apostolic in Central Africa, bounded north by the Anglo-German frontier, east by Lake ...

Nympha, Tryphon, and Respicius

Martyrs whose feast is observed in the Latin Church on 10 November. Tryphon is said to have ...

Nyssa

Vicariate Apostolic in Central Africa, bounded north by the Anglo-German frontier, east by Lake ...

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