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Art: Plotinus and Dome of the Rock Essay

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Updated: Dec 27th, 2021

Introduction

The oldest Islamic building of the World is named as the Dome of the Rock located on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It was built in the years 691 and it has a very important place in the Islam religion. It is told that the “Foundation Stone” (Peterson1994) in the heart of the Dome of the Rock has a “Well of Souls” (Peterson1994). The Islamic people believe that one can hear the voices of the dead along with the flowing sound of the River of Paradise. Another ideology says that the Well of souls is the hiding place of the Ark of Covenant (Clark, 1999).

Religious significance

As discussed earlier, the Dome of the Rock holds a very special place in Islam Religion. One of the holiest sites of Islam religion it is build among a number of buildings in the Temple Mount.

Islamic believes are that the Rock is the spot from where Muhammad, the great Islamic prophet ascended to Heaven, and on the journey he was accompanied by Gabriel, the Angel of God” (Peterson, 1994).

In Judaism the Foundation stone is one of the holiest sites and has the greatest significance in their religion and culture too. “Traditionally the Jews regard the stone to be the holiest spot of the World” (Peterson, 1994). In this point we can say that still some Jewish scholars believe that the true position of the stone is not yet known for certain. In Christian religion a lot believe that in the time of Eastern Roman Empire, the place where the Dome is situated was preceded by a small church which was built by Constantine’s mother. The church was called the church of St. Cyrus and St. John, and later it came to be known as the Church of Holy Wisdom (Peterson, 1994).

Plotinus

One of the most important Neo-Platonist philosophers, Plotinus was a master of Indian and Persian philosophy and his school of philosophical thoughts was really popular in Rome. Many of his followers even distributed all their wealth among the needy and devoted their lives to contemplative seclusion (Clark, 1999).

His theories are extensions of the theories of Plato but they also had elements of other great philosophers too. And he had really considerable influence of the Papal system and Christian Church. Though he always opposed Christianity and in his philosophy the cosmological point was the main focal point. He based his point of views on the World. Some of the virtues set by him are really admirable and they say about the relation between human- beings and the high virtues of life. He even has said that he wanted man to clean his soul and this can be an alteration of the concept of God. His views on beauty can be said as “a manifestation of the divine” (Waterfield, 2010). And his idea of reality is based in several parts as follows.

Level 1 of his psychology is the ultimate step where he calls the Good or the One which is the equivalent of the God in popular cultural belief. Level 2 is the realm of all the intellectual things that contain all the immaterial principles of all beautiful things. The third level is of the human, where both material and intellectual (or spiritual) realms are present. The level is “the level of material world, consisting of nature, animals and other inanimate matters, which are lower than the mankind” (Waterfield, 2010).

The order and significant harmony seen in the natural World are the cause of order and harmony of the cosmos. In his philosophy, art is the bridge between the visual and the intellectual realm, and in this way it can be said that art is a symbol to both the lowest and the highest realms in his philosophy. There is an anti physical attitude in his writings and he mainly stressed on the physical side of Worldly existence. And it might be termed as one of the basic concepts of Christianity (Clark, 1999).

Beauty, to quote from Plotinus, “is something that is perceived at the first glance, something which the soul names as from an ancient knowledge and, recognizing, welcomes it, enters into unison with it. But let the soul fall in with the Ugly and at once it shrinks within itself, denies the thing turns away from it, not accordant, resenting it” (Katz and Dahlhaus, 1987)

Beauty is the absolute opposite of ugly and all material things can become beautiful by merely communicating the thought flows of original and divine. The inner eye when confirms any subject only than it becomes beautiful and though the outside may look beautiful but the true definition of beauty is from the inward mind of the person or in that sense any thing (Clark, 1999).

In this case we can note that there are some different types of beauties too present but we even can not understand or recognize them in our life. This is the beauty to be experienced by “the inner eye of the person” (Clark, 1999). The people who have only experienced material beauty will not able to understand this type of beauty in any case. The spirit of beauty will feel satisfied and wonderful in longing of love and other feelings. This type of love will make you feel the presence of grace in your actions and it will surely show that a person is really beautiful inside no matter what he does (Clark, 1999).

There is virtue in every good action and the glimpse of beauty is really inevitable in these cases. And soul is the most important thing to appreciate the beauty. And the last thing that is really important in this case is the formation of “moral discipline and mental courage of a person” (Clark 1999). And the ultimate beauty will be the ascension to the good which is the prototype of God in other philosophies and religions (Waterfield, 2010).

Dome of The Rock

The Dome of the Rock is one of the finest religious architectures of the World. It was a popular belief that the Dome will house the Muslims in heat and cold. Architecturally it can be called a rotunda, although the form of Rotunda was foreign at that time to the Muslims and there must a strong foreign influence worked in this case. It is an octagonal structure and has a “wooden dome which is basically mounted on 16 piers and it is surrounded by 24 piers” (Peterson, 1994). The outside of the dome resembles Byzantine martyrium and it was reported that at least “100000 gold coins were melted for the construction of the dome’s exterior” (Peterson, 1994). With exotic interior decorations by marble and mosaic, the dome eludes class in all the senses. There are inscriptions from the Holy Quran in side the Dome. Some scholars say that the inscriptions inside the Dome say strongly against Christianity (Peterson, 1994).

The theory of Plotinus can be applied in all the aspects of the construction of the Dome. Basically it is one of the most beautiful architectural works in the World. Both from the inside and outside it eludes beauty and elegance. More than it the Plotinus concept of art as a bridge between the real and surreal is totally clear here. As it is devoted to Islamic ideas and Plotinus was himself adverse to Christian psychology and their concept of God. Rather than he wanted a good being rather than a specific God in the case. It also reflected in the Dome’s interior. The history of the Dome says that it is instilled on a place where earlier there was a Christian Church (Waterfield, 2010).

In the final analysis, we can say that Plotinus’ philosophy was one of the most refined aspects of the subject in that time and subsequently the Dome is too one of the most beautiful artifacts of the World. It is wrong to draw any comparison between the two, and it must not be done. But both had their place in history of mankind and will still have in future too. This is because our past shapes our future entirely in all the aspects. The Plotinus concept of beauty and virtue is something really to understand and if his ideas applied successfully in life, the life will surely be blessed.

References

  1. Clark, S. (1999). Form and Transformation: a study in the philosophy of Plotinus. Philosophical Books 36(1), 40-42.
  2. Katz,R., and Dahlhaus, C. (1987). Contemplating Music: Substance. London: Pendragon Press.
  3. Peterson, A. (1994). Dictionary of Islamic Architecture. London: Routledge.
  4. Waterfield, R. (2010). Akrasia in Greek Philosophy from Socrates to Plotinus (Philosophia Antiqua 106). The Heythrop Journal 51(2), 326-327.
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