Plotinus in the Jungle

Guava Season: Photo Essay

Inauguration Mass 2017

Our school year started at the beginning of February. After a week-long retreat for the students, we kick off the new academic year with an opening mass and communal meal.

Our celebrant for the mass was Bishop Anton Bal of Kundiawa Diocese.

Afterward we took the opportunity to take some photos of the students.

Here are all the students, plus the Rector Fr. Paul Sundu (in green stole), Bishop (in biretta), lecturer John Ding (on left, behind flowers), Dean of Studies Michael Epri (behind and to the left of the Rector), Brandon, and Annie.

The new first-year class of 26 students, 14 of which are from Kundiawa Diocese.

The nine second-year seminarians, three of which come from Daru-Kiunga Diocese.

We are very glad to have doubled our enrollment from last year. For one thing, the students can now play rugby, soccer, and ultimate frisbee and still have subs left over! Now we need to double our residential staff. Please pray for us as we continue in the new school year!

GSS 25th Anniversary 2016

Our graduation festivities at the end of last year coincided with our celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Good Shepherd’s founding.

We started with a prayer by the grave of our founder, Fr. Peter von Adrichem, svd, down at Fatima Parish, which he also founded.

The pickup truck that has been with the seminary from the beginning, driven by John Ding, a founding staff member.

James Lepinus, of Daru-Kiunga Diocese, and Gabriel Tiene, of Kundiawa Diocese

An important event in PNG often includes people wearing bilas. One of the graduating students put on his traditional highlands outfit, and Annie’s singsing group was also engaged for the occasion.

Both Annie and Tabitha got dressed up

Annie’s fur pelt is a cuscus, formerly the neighbor’s pet. I am not sure what kind of stripy chipmunk-sized pelt Tabitha has on.

Together with the singsing group

Priests who had graduated from Good Shepherd from the surrounding dioceses came to celebrate with us.

The entrance procession

Bishop Donald Lippert, OFM-Cap of Mendi,  Bishop Arnold Orowae of Wabag, and Archbishop Douglas Young, SVD of Mt. Hagen, also came to celebrate with us. After the mass giving thanks for the 25 years of Good Shepherd Seminary’s existence, we moved to the student hall to give out the diplomas. Four students graduated with their Advanced Diplomas in Religious Studies, and two graduated with their Bachelor’s Degree in Religious Studies. The day ended with a mumu.

Annie patiently stood with our neighbor Cornelia in the student hall, while Tabitha went back to take her bilas off!

We pray that God will bless the future of Good Shepherd Seminary, and send us both staff and students!

Portrait of Tobiah at 13 months

Tobiah didn’t get a birthday post yet, but the anniversary of his baptism just happened, so now is as good a time as any to catch up.

I took some photos on the back porch on his birthday:

The single dimple is still killer

The single dimple is still killer

He is still devoted to his two fingers

He is still devoted to his two fingers

Taking a few steps!

Taking a few steps!

Later in the day we opened a package from his Nona.

A package commands everyone's rapt attention

A package commands everyone’s rapt attention

Opening a birthday present.

Opening a birthday present… with a giant pile of laundry in the background. 

Tobiah currently loves candles and making blowing noises. He was thrilled with our advent wreath in December. If we didn’t light it promptly he would look at it and say “pffooff! pffofff!”

a big smile for his very own candle

a big smile for his very own candle

yum yum, birthday cake

yum yum, birthday cake

birthday bath to wash off all that chocolate frosting

birthday bath to wash off all that chocolate frosting

Tobiah is an expert crawler and can get around at high speeds:


He likes cats and dogs, especially dogs right now. All the animals in the nativity scene say “arf, arf, arf,” according to Tobiah.

with a stuffed dog Annie named Balogna when she was two

with a stuffed dog Annie named Bologna when she was two

He spends more and more time standing up or climbing on the furniture

Holding onto his bilum

Holding onto his bilum

taking more steps!

taking more steps, stumbling right towards the photographer!

His favorite messes to make are upsetting the pencils and eating the crayons, pulling out handfuls of flour and rice to fling around the kitchen, and taking down all the shoes from the shelf:


Papua New Guineans really appreciate his social skills of waving and saying byebye and shaking hands, of which I just realized I don’t have a photo yet.

And Tobiah is somewhat catlike in his “if I fits, I sits” attitude towards boxes:

everyone loves to play with christmas present packaging

everyone loves to play with christmas present packaging

Other interests include sitting outside and poking things with sticks, flinging his sock monkey at other parishioners during mass, and eating inordinate numbers of peas.

We love you Tobiah! Happy anniversary of entering the church!


Bilas Girl in Minj

Going to the Goroka show re-sparked Annie’s interest in traditional dance. We heard that her dance team was going to the nearby town of Minj to dance; it turned out they had been hired to provide some local color for the opening of a hotel.  So Annie decided to join her dance team in Minj. Miriam went with her and took a few pictures.


When she came back she said there were two or three other dance teams there as well. She ate her piece of pork meat that she brought back from the mumu and fell into bed! It did re-cement Annie’s status as a local celebrity. The next day, every vendor in the market said “we heard you danced in Minj!”

Annie and another bilas girl

Annie and another bilas girl. Her dad drives by us on the road sometimes and always says “hey, you danced together with my daughter!” 

Our neighbor Cornelia graduated from eighth grade recently, finishing her years in primary school. Cornelia wore bilas as part of the graduation festivities and Tabitha wanted to dress up too, so they indulged her whim. It ended up being good practice for Good Shepherd’s graduation! A post on that topic coming soon.

Tabitha plays dress-up

Tabitha plays dress-up

Mendi Christmas 2016

We had a lovely time spending the holiday weekend visiting the Diocese of Mendi. It’s about 70 miles away from Mt. Hagen, in Southern Highlands Province. We enjoyed the hospitality of the Capuchin Franciscans very much, staying in their guest house and eating meals with the friars.

Br. Michael, Br. Ray, Bp. Don, Fr. Coleman

Br. Michael, Br. Ray, Bp. Don, Fr. Coleman

We arrived on Friday and had a nice tour of the compound given by a seminarian, Thomas, who just graduated from the BA program. We saw the cathedral, the catechist training centre, the community heath workers’ school, and Bishop Don‘s house. Thomas also told us about the Jubilee the Diocese had just celebrated for their 50th anniversary.

Saturday morning Brandon walked around Mendi town with a local catechist, Roland, who showed him the sights, such as the two multi-story buildings and the market, where the sight of Brandon and Tabitha buying corn to make corn pudding almost incited a riot.

Roland was very kind in carrying our children

Roland was very kind in carrying our children over the course of our stay!

Saturday evening was the Christmas Eve mass at the Cathedral. Anastasia had been feeling a bit sickly, so despite having practiced a procession with the local children and procured the materials for candleholders, she slept through the mass! Brandon and Tabitha attended as our family delegates.

Very festively decorated

Very festively decorated

the childrens' procession passes by Sr. Gaudencia and some Missionaries of Charity

the children’s procession passes by Sr. Gaudencia of Switzerland and some Missionaries of Charity

Christmas morning, Sunday, we went with the Bishop to the opening of a new outstation.

St. Michael the Archangel is the patron saint of PNG

St. Michael the Archangel is the patron saint of PNG

A very hearty welcome

A very hearty welcome

We learned that there would also be about 20 confirmations that day as well.

A boy who was to be confirmed, at left

A boy who was to be confirmed, at left

processing up the hill to the new church building

processing up the hill to the new church building

As they marched, they chanted “Merry Christmas Bishop, Welcome Bishop, Merry Christmas Bishop, Welcome Bishop…”

Bp. Don is good at marching in time!

Bp. Don is good at marching in time! They presented Brandon with a hat too.

Mass was outdoors, because the crowd gathered would not have fit in the new church.

The altar and its bilas

The altar and its bilas

Tobiah and Tabitha liked sitting on tarps for church; they could roam around more easily!

Tobiah and Tabitha liked sitting on tarps for church; they could roam around more easily!

One of the reasons we came with the Bishop to this mass was that it is the home place of one of our seminarians, who just started the BA program in the new cohort. Steven is carrying the bucket of holy water, at left, below.

Bishop Don sprinkles holy water on the parishoners as part of the rite of Confirmation

Bishop Don sprinkles holy water on the parishioners as part of the rite of Confirmation

The Bishop’s message in the homily was: if you ask “God i stap we?” the answer is, “God i stap wantaim yumi.”

Tabitha, are you paying attention to the Bishop's sermon?

Tabitha, are you paying attention to the Bishop’s sermon?

After Mass we were served a nice lunch of rice, chicken, and vegetables in the catechist’s house.

After mass, with Steven (holding Tabitha) and parishioners

After mass, with Steven (holding Tabitha) and parishioners

The big meal of the day was the Diocesan Christmas Party that night, of which we took no pictures but had a great time. It was a potluck, so Brandon made a giant batch of corn pudding, a link to his family’s traditions. Br. Ray, one of our Capuchin hosts, made scalloped potatoes, and the Missionaries of Charity brought naan and curry, among many others. As we ate, Fr. Isaiah told me about his world tour this past summer, with all the places in the US he stopped – including PA, MD, DC, and CO! After the food, there was singing of carols in different Tok Ples – Bishop Don sang in Spanish, we did Go Tell it on the Mountain, Fr. Isaiah sang in Huli… the Swiss sisters, whom have been here since the 60s, started a German carol but forgot the words halfway through, to much laughter. There were Polish carols and a Swahili carol and carols from Chimbu. And Santa Claus, whose pillow belly had a habit of escaping and whose mustache had migrated up on top of his nose, made a hilarious appearance.

We ourselves opened a few presents in front of the Capuchins’ Christmas tree earlier that day.

Tabitha and Tobiah try in vain to read the names on the presents

Tabitha and Tobiah try in vain to read the names on the presents

The children would retire to the couch just to gaze at the ornaments

The children would retire to the couch just to gaze at the ornaments

Tabitha gazes fondly at a new DVD

Tabitha gazes fondly at a new DVD

Tobiah clambers over his new soccer shirt

Tobiah clambers over his new soccer shirt

On Monday, we climbed up a local mountain, as we are wont to do. There are some very striking limestone cliffs by Mendi town, and we scaled one, Mt. Kebin, with Steven, the seminarian, his brother Tombo, Roland the catechist, and 22 village children. It was a very steep and muddy ascent, at times like rock climbing but with more mud, but we made it! … without our camera, sadly. The way down was through the rainforest, which was less steep but even more muddy. We even ate well on the mountain – the village children picked us a pint of “bush tomatoes,” which seem to be ground cherries, the sweet-tart variety of tomatillo, and Steven’s sister Alice served us “the best kaukau” Brandon had ever eaten in PNG in her cookhouse at the foot of the mountain. (This kaukau was orange and soft, like American sweet potato.)

We were on top of that patch of limestone

We were on top of that patch of limestone

Monday night we opened more presents with the friars.

Br. Michael, as the guardian, was the elf

Br. Michael, as the guardian, was the elf

Br. Ray chuckles over his present as Fr. Coleman looks on

Br. Ray chuckles over his present as Fr. Coleman looks on

We really appreciated having a relaxing holiday with nothing to do but spend time with our family and the other missionaries. Br. Ray and Fr. Coleman have both been in PNG since the 60s and it was great to hear some of their stories (like how Fr. Coleman won the ping-pong trophy against some Australian soldiers before independence) as well as from the Sisters from Switzerland, who had us over for Christmas cookies and played balloons with the girls.

We drove back on Tuesday, stopping at the Archdiocese of Mt. Hagen Christmas party on the way to enjoy some mint chocolate chip ice cream and hear the annual summary of movements and events read out by the Archbishop.

This year we have decided to keep the 12 days of Christmas and are opening one present per person each day. So we set up a little tabletop tree at home for our presents to go “under.”

It was Tabitha's turn to hand out the presents

It was Tabitha’s turn to hand out the presents. Also, yes, it is warm enough for sundresses and sandals at Christmastime.

Tidings of comfort and joy

Tidings of comfort and joy

We are having ourselves a Merry Christmas and we hope you are too, as you reflect on the tidings of great joy which are for ALL people.

New BA Cohort

Last year, I took over Good Shepherd’s BA in Religious Studies Program during the first residential.  If I had not taken it over, the program would have died.  I think the plan of the program is great.  We give our recently graduated students intensive training in pastoral work and in social research methods, they go and do pastoral work for a year and conduct a research project in which they use social research methods to bring clarity to a pastoral issue facing the PNG Church, such as why youth are leaving the Catholic Church, the effect polygamy has on Catholic families, whether there is a correlation between family prayer and reduced domestic violence.  Unfortunately, due to the seminary’s limited resources, the program’s implementation has always been difficult.

For our 2017 cohort, I had complete control.  I created the application forms and determined the tuition costs.  I, the Rector, and the Dean of Studies decided who would be accepted.  I made the schedule for the first residential period (Nov 14 – Dec 2), and I recruited the lecturers for the different courses.  And since our secretary quit, I also photocopied the readings for the different courses and Rebecca bound them!  We accepted seven men, the program’s largest cohort yet:


Going across from upper left to lower right:

Godwin: A layman and teacher from Kerema who is interested in the impact that religious education classes have on the faith life of primary students.

Solomon: A layman from Kundiawa who is interested in the effect polygamy has on a Catholic family’s ability to practice the faith.

Mathias: A layman and teacher from Jiwaka who is interested in the active participation of the laity in the liturgy.

Michael: A layman from Kundiawa who is interested in why the youth/young adults are leaving the Catholic Church.

Anton: A layman and prison chaplain from Goroka now working in Port Moresby who is interested in ecumenism in prison ministry.

Gabriel: A seminarian from Kundiawa who is interested in why seminarians leave the formation program.

Steven: A seminarian from Mendi who is interested in why Catholics join other denominations.

Please pray for our students and for me as I try to guide them to success!

I am very happy with the number of laymen who are in this year’s cohort.  All of them are ex-seminarians.  The BA program gives them a chance to finish their education and gain good skills to serve their church and community.  I hope that the successful inclusion of laymen in the BA program could open the way for the seminary to generally accept lay students.

Outline for chapters 4+5

My New Year’s Resolution for 2017 is to be done the full draft of the dissertation.  Please pray for me and my family regarding this goal.  Here is the outline for the remaining two chapters:

Chapter 4: Plotinus on First Cause and its Causality

4.1. Background

4.1– Plato’s Riddles

  1. Relation of first principles: One/Good, Forms/Demiurge, Soul, Matter
  2. What does generated mean?
  3. Causality appropriate to God? – Criticisms of Aristotle and the Epicureans

4.1.2 – Dualistic interpretations

  1. Pythagorean dualism – Aristotle, Speusippus
  2. Demiurgic dualism or more – Xenocrates, Plutarch, Alkinous [Disagreement about temporal origination masks a deeper unity in which God is an intellect ordering the cosmos, using by putting the world soul in order.]
  3. Monarchial dualism – Hermodorus, Philo, Early Christians
  4. Numenius + Atticus

4.1.3 – Monistic Interpretations

  1. Neopythagoreanism
  2. Gnosticism

4.1.4 – Was Plotinus influenced by Jewish, Christian, or Gnostic thought?

4.2. Arguments for the One

4.2.1 – Preliminaries: Existence of incorporeal soul, and of Nous=Forms.  Nous is the origin of soul.

4.2.2 – Argument from Unity (VI.9)

4.2.3 – Argument that intellectual activity requires a source and an end. This end enjoys the unity that thinking seeks to achieve in overcoming the subject-object duality.

4.2.4 – Argument that being, as intrinsically complex, requires a source.  This source must neither be a being nor the totality of beings.

4.2.5 – Argument that all things seek the Good, but the good is not convertible with Nous, therefore the final good must be beyond Nous.

4.2.6 – Intelligible matter, the unlimited capacity to perfectly receive form, must be caused by what has unlimited power and is beyond Intellect.

4.3 The One’s causality is creation

4.3.1 – The One is prior to all things as their cause

4.3.2 – All things continuously depend upon the One for their existence.  Plotinus on the meaning of generated

4.4 The One as Creator

4.4.1 – Plotinus’s anticipation of the Thomas’s triplex via [contra Perl].  Plotinus’ wariness regarding anthropomorphic language.

4.4.2 – One as the efficient, exemplar, and final cause of all things.  This causality is mediated via Nous and Soul.  Contra Gerson, the One is eminently all things.

4.4.3 – One is infinite.  It is characterized as pure activity (V.6.6; VI.8.20)

4.4.4 – One is a universal cause, though perhaps not immediate

4.4.5 – One is unrelated to its effects and does not enter into composition with them.

4.5 Conclusion – Points to be resolved in the next chapter


Chapter 5: How All Originates from the One

5.1 Centrality of the Question of how a Multiplicity Come from a Unity

5.2 Generation of Nous

5.2.1 – Logically, Nous must be caused by the One

5.2.2 – Aristotle’s Noetics as Background.  Gnostic Antecedents

5.2.3 – Three stage origination of Nous: potency, first act, second act –  Clear accounts in the Enneads (VI.7, V.3) – Interpreting the unclear account (V.1.7) – Nous as ever dependent on the One for its existence, content, and actuality

5.2.4 – Nous is besotted with the One.  The relative unimportance of tolma

5.3 Three-step Generation of Soul

5.4 Generation of Matter

5.4.1 – Difficulties regarding Nature and the generation of soul

5.4.2 – The troubled generation of matter – Matter is generated by Soul, which must then catch it – Matter as evil – Relative unimportance of the Fall of the individual soul

5.4.3 – Matter is generated by the One through the instrumentality of Soul

5.5  Is the One Free?

5.5.1 – Review of Avicenna on God as the necessary cause of existence

5.5.2 – Thomas on God’s free choice.  The conceptual difficulty

5.5.3 – Plotinus’s position: the One is absolutely free, but choice is an imperfection – Background with Alexander of Aphrodisias – Fittingness arguments for the One’s production – Absolute Freedom of the One.  Will=substance – Choice is the ability to fail in doing the best

5.5.4 – Is Plotinus consistent?  Is Aquinas consistent?

5.6 Plotinus’s account of instrumental creation


Conclusion: Replies to the 12 Objections

Outline of chapters 1-3

Some of you may be wondering if I will ever emerge from the jungle as Dr. Zimmerman.  Take heart!  I hope to be finished writing the dissertation by the end of the next year.  I had some great meetings with my director, Dr. Matthias Vorwerk, when I was in the USA this summer.  He came up with a plan to reorganize the work that I already did into three chapters, cut most of a planned chapter out, and then condense what had been projected as three chapters into two.  The focus is changing a bit so that the dissertation will be more of a comparison between Thomas Aquinas and Plotinus on the causality of God than a dissertation just on Plotinus, but that set me up to sell myself as capable of ancient and medieval philosophy when I hit the job field.

My goal is to write chapter 4 during the Spring (USA) term and chapter 5 by the end of 2017.  I was delayed by having my laptop stolen about a month ago, but I had backed up my files when I was in the US and my kind mother-in-law procured a new computer for me (which I am now using).

Here is the outline of the completed chapters, in case you are interested:

Part I: Creation is said in many ways [80 pages]

Introduction to Part I

Chapter 1: Objections

1.1 – Gilson and Associates

1.1.1 – Gilson, Pegis, and Sweeney: Why Plotinus Does Not Present an Account of Creation

1.1.2 – Gilson and Pegis: Aquinas Denies that Greek Philosophers Reached the Idea of Creation

1.1.3 – Responses Against and Continuations of Gilson’s Thesis

1.1.4 – Six Objections

1.2 – The Christian Distinction

1.2.1 – Robert Sokolowski, James Hart, and the Christian Distinction

1.2.2 – The Limits of Philosophical Explanation

1.2.3 – Sokolowski and Hart’s Critiques of Plotinus’s Philosophy

1.2.4 – David Burrell’s Rethinking of the Creation-Emanation Antithesis

1.3 – Lloyd Gerson’s Ambiguous Stance on Plotinus and Creation

1.4 – List of Objections

Conclusion to Part I


Part II: Aquinas on the Philosophical Discovery and Meaning of Creation


Introduction to Part II

Chapter 2: Aquinas on the Philosophical Idea of Creation [90 pages]

2.1 – Immediate Context for Thomas’s Doctrine of Creation

2.1.1 – Peter Lombard on the Christian Doctrine of Creation

2.1.2 – How Creation Was Understood by Thomas’s Scholastic Predecessors

2.2 – Thomas on God and Creation

2.2.1 Thomas’s Method for Investigating God and Creation

2.2.2 – Thomas’s Arguments and Argumentative Strategy for Creation

2.3 – The Philosophical Meaning of Creation

2.3.1 – Creation Presupposes Nothing

2.3.2 – Non-being is Naturally Prior to Being in the Creature – Thomas’s Debt to Avicenna – The Existential Dependence of all Things on God

2.4 – The Nature of the Creator


Chapter 3: Aquinas on Which Philosophers Taught Creation and Their Errors [60 pages]

3.1 – Introduction

3.2 – Who Teaches the Doctrine of Creation?

3.2.1 – The Textual Riddle

3.2.2 – A Survey of Thomas’s Judgments

3.2.3 – A New Interpretation of ST I, q. 44, a. 2

3.2.4 – Who Teaches the Doctrine of Creation?

3.3 – The Errors of the Philosophers

3.4 – The Philosophical Meaning of Creation


Conclusion to Part II

Anastasia Graduates

The calendar year and the school year are the same in PNG and Australia; her first day of school was in February. Anastasia graduated from Banz Christian Academy in mid-November.

They practiced for graduation for a solid month beforehand, so anticipation had built up greatly! She was excited to wear her bow tie in addition to her normal school uniform, and had a little photoshoot with her sister.


up at the Mary grotto, the most beautiful place on campus

duck lips?


up at the Mary Grotto, the most beautiful spot on campus

Annie got there early to put on her gown, but then there was a good deal of waiting for the invited guests (including the Governor, who unsurprisingly did not make it).

standing in the schoolyard with her classmates

standing in the schoolyard with her classmates 

Finally, it was time to process in to the church building. Annie had also been practicing marching for weeks. Can you tell?

The PNG Flag and the "Christian Flag", to both of which Annie has pledges memorized

The PNG Flag and the “Christian Flag”, to both of which Annie has pledges memorized

left, right, left

left, right, left

everyone assembled inside

everyone assembled inside

Annie had kept it a secret that she was going to give a little welcoming address in front of the whole student body! She did great- spoke clearly and had every word down.

"I would like to welcome the guest speaker, Pastor Paul, the Honorable Dr. William Tongap..."

“I would like to welcome the guest speaker, Pastor Paul, the Honorable Dr. William Tongap…”

Next were various items given by the different classes, showcasing some of the things they learned.

The RR 2 class waiting to do their item

The RR 2 class waiting to do their item

ready to hold up signs of animals and recite the phoneme each animal represents

ready to hold up signs of animals and recite the phoneme each animal represents

"A, 'ah', Abbie Antelope!"

“A, ‘ah’, Abbie Antelope!”

At last, after several hours, it was time to give certificates and awards.

Annie also practiced picking up the certificate with the correct hand, and shaking with the other

Annie walking up to get her certificate



Anastasia also received an award for top marks! It was a math workbook.

She's already done the entire math workbook, haha

She’s already done the entire math workbook, haha

Well done, Anastasia!