Plotinus was born in 205 C.E, probably in Egypt. He went to Alexandria to study philosophy in 232 C.E. He searched for a teacher and finally began to study with Ammonius Saccas, who was also the teacher of Origen.  Saccas had been a Christian, but like Marcion, Valentinus, and Origen (his pupil), found that Jesus' teachings had been distorted by the romanized church, so he no longer chose to use that title. Plotinus studied with Ammonius Saccas for eleven years.

At the age of thirty-nine, Plotinus developed a desire to study Persian and Indian philosophy, so he joined the Emperor Gordian's expedition to the East. Unfortunately, Gordian was murdered in Mesopotamia early in 244 C.E. and it was only with some difficulty that Plotinus escapted to Antioch.

Plotinus went to Rome in 244 C.E. and established a school. He became a personal friend of the emperor Gallienus and the Empress Salonina and became a counselor to a wide number of people. He taught like other Perennialist masters, providing various levels of pupils with the experiences appropriate to their development.

In his declining years, Plotinus suffered from a painful malady, possibly leprosy. He died in 270 C.E.