The following is an extract from the ‘Cambridge Companion to Plotinus’, Edited by Lloyd P Gregson, Cambridge University Press, (1996), Pages 204-214 – which discusses the concept of ‘Time’, what it is, what might be and what it could be (if indeed, ‘Time’ exists at all). Many Western translators make the basic (and ‘fatal’) error of continuously equating the Greek philosophical term of ‘Psyche’ (ψυχή) with the Christian theological term of ‘Soul’ – as if the two concepts are synonymous! The term ‘Soul’ appears to have been a Pagan (Germanic) term (of uncertain meaning) which the colonising Christians appropriated and misused as a means to ‘convert’ stubborn Germanic tribes to the Christian faith! The Christian theologians had already stolen and misrepresented the Greek term ‘Psyche’ – inverting its meaning to refer to a ‘spirit’ that exists in opposition to the physical body – an ethereal entity that pre-exists birth and post-exists death and has very little to directly do with either. The Christians then further added to this confusion (entirely of their own making) by superimposing the Germanic term ‘Soul’ over their misinterpretation of the Greek philosophical term ‘Psyche’! Plotinus (and most genuine Greek philosophers) never used or even knew of the Christian conflation of ‘Psyche-Soul’. Certainly, Plotinus NEVER used the Christian term ‘Soul’, but he did continuously use the Greek philosophical term ‘Psyche’, which refers to the ‘breath of life’, ‘the animating principle of existence’ – or that ‘spark’ which sets in motion all the conditions that grant psychological (thought) and physical (existence)! Plato’s 4th Century BCE text entitled ‘Definitions’ a manual of philosophical terms (translated by DS Hutchinson, 1996) used within his ‘Academy’ School of Philosophical Study – defines the Greek term ‘Psyche’ to mean the following:
a) That which moves itself.
b) The cause of vital processes in living creatures.
I would argue that the Greek term ‘Psyche’ implies so much more than the narrow Christian term ‘Soul’, and even if there are elements of the Greek ‘Psyche’ which overlap with the Christian ‘Soul’ – this in no way validates (or accepts) the Christian doctrine as being true anymore than it invalidates the Greek philosophical message! The point, as in the following text, many Western authors routinely use the Christian term ‘Soul’ when they obviously mean the Greek (non-Christian) term ‘Psyche’ and this should be borne in mind when studying these types of exploratory philosophical texts that are obviously unencumbered by the theology of Christian thinking: