The Six Enneads, by Plotinus

Fourth Tractate.

Our Tutelary Spirit.

1. Some Existents [Absolute Unity and Intellectual-Principle] remain at rest while their Hypostases, or Expressed-Idea, come into being; but, in our view, the Soul generates by its motion, to which is due the sensitive faculty — that in any of its expression-forms — Nature and all forms of life down to the vegetable order. Even as it is present in human beings the Soul carries its Expression-form [Hypostasis] with it, but is not the dominant since it is not the whole man (humanity including the Intellectual Principal, as well): in the vegetable order it is the highest since there is nothing to rival it; but at this phase it is no longer reproductive, or, at least, what it produces is of quite another order; here life ceases; all later production is lifeless.

What does this imply?

Everything the Soul engenders down to this point comes into being shapeless, and takes form by orientation towards its author and supporter: therefore the thing engendered on the further side can be no image of the Soul, since it is not even alive; it must be an utter Indetermination. No doubt even in things of the nearer order there was indetermination, but within a form; they were undetermined not utterly but only in contrast with their perfect state: at this extreme point we have the utter lack of determination. Let it be raised to its highest degree and it becomes body by taking such shape as serves its scope; then it becomes the recipient of its author and sustainer: this presence in body is the only example of the boundaries of Higher Existents running into the boundary of the Lower.

2. It is of this Soul especially that we read “All Soul has care for the Soulless”— though the several Souls thus care in their own degree and way. The passage continues —“Soul passes through the entire heavens in forms varying with the variety of place”— the sensitive form, the reasoning form, even the vegetative form — and this means that in each “place” the phase of the soul there dominant carries out its own ends while the rest, not present there, is idle.

Now, in humanity the lower is not supreme; it is an accompaniment; but neither does the better rule unfailingly; the lower element also has a footing, and Man, therefore, lives in part under sensation, for he has the organs of sensation, and in large part even by the merely vegetative principle, for the body grows and propagates: all the graded phases are in a collaboration, but the entire form, man, takes rank by the dominant, and when the life-principle leaves the body it is what it is, what it most intensely lived.

This is why we must break away towards the High: we dare not keep ourselves set towards the sensuous principle, following the images of sense, or towards the merely vegetative, intent upon the gratifications of eating and procreation; our life must be pointed towards the Intellective, towards the Intellectual-Principle, towards God.

Those that have maintained the human level are men once more. Those that have lived wholly to sense become animals — corresponding in species to the particular temper of the life — ferocious animals where the sensuality has been accompanied by a certain measure of spirit, gluttonous and lascivious animals where all has been appetite and satiation of appetite. Those who in their pleasures have not even lived by sensation, but have gone their way in a torpid grossness become mere growing things, for this lethargy is the entire act of the vegetative, and such men have been busy be-treeing themselves. Those, we read, that, otherwise untainted, have loved song become vocal animals; kings ruling unreasonably but with no other vice are eagles; futile and flighty visionaries ever soaring skyward, become highflying birds; observance of civic and secular virtue makes man again, or where the merit is less marked, one of the animals of communal tendency, a bee or the like.

3. What, then, is the spirit [guiding the present life and determining the future]?

The Spirit of here and now.

And the God?

The God of here and now.

Spirit, God; This in act within us, conducts every life; for, even here and now, it is the dominant of our Nature.

That is to say that the dominant is the spirit which takes possession of the human being at birth?

No: the dominant is the Prior of the individual spirit; it presides inoperative while its secondary acts: so that if the acting force is that of men of the sense-life, the tutelary spirit is the Rational Being, while if we live by that Rational Being, our tutelary Spirit is the still higher Being, not directly operative but assenting to the working principle. The words “You shall yourselves choose” are true, then; for by our life we elect our own loftier.

But how does this spirit come to be the determinant of our fate?

It is not when the life is ended that it conducts us here or there; it operates during the lifetime; when we cease to live, our death hands over to another principle this energy of our own personal career.

That principle [of the new birth] strives to gain control, and if it succeeds it also lives and itself, in turn, possesses a guiding spirit [its next higher]: if on the contrary it is weighed down by the developed evil in the character, the spirit of the previous life pays the penalty: the evil-liver loses grade because during his life the active principle of his being took the tilt towards the brute by force of affinity. If, on the contrary, the Man is able to follow the leading of his higher Spirit, he rises: he lives that Spirit; that noblest part of himself to which he is being led becomes sovereign in his life; this made his own, he works for the next above until he has attained the height.

For the Soul is many things, is all, is the Above and the Beneath to the totality of life: and each of us is an Intellectual Kosmos, linked to this world by what is lowest in us, but, by what is the highest, to the Divine Intellect: by all that is intellective we are permanently in that higher realm, but at the fringe of the Intellectual we are fettered to the lower; it is as if we gave forth from it some emanation towards that lower, or, rather some Act, which however leaves our diviner part not in itself diminished.

4. But is this lower extremity of our intellective phase fettered to body for ever?

No: if we turn, this turns by the same act.

And the Soul of the All — are we to think that when it turns from this sphere its lower phase similarly withdraws?

No: for it never accompanied that lower phase of itself; it never knew any coming, and therefore never came down; it remains unmoved above, and the material frame of the Universe draws close to it, and, as it were, takes light from it, no hindrance to it, in no way troubling it, simply lying unmoved before it.

But has the Universe, then, no sensation? “It has no Sight,” we read, since it has no eyes, and obviously it has not ears, nostrils, or tongue. Then has it perhaps such a consciousness as we have of our own inner conditions?

No: where all is the working out of one nature, there is nothing but still rest; there is not even enjoyment. Sensibility is present as the quality of growth is, unrecognized. But the Nature of the World will be found treated elsewhere; what stands here is all that the question of the moment demands.

5. But if the presiding Spirit and the conditions of life are chosen by the Soul in the overworld, how can anything be left to our independent action here?

The answer is that very choice in the over-world is merely an allegorical statement of the Soul’s tendency and temperament, a total character which it must express wherever it operates.

But if the tendency of the Soul is the master-force and, in the Soul, the dominant is that phase which has been brought to the fore by a previous history, then the body stands acquitted of any bad influence upon it? The Soul’s quality exists before any bodily life; it has exactly what it chose to have; and, we read, it never changes its chosen spirit; therefore neither the good man nor the bad is the product of this life?

Is the solution, perhaps, that man is potentially both good and bad but becomes the one or the other by force of act?

But what if a man temperamentally good happens to enter a disordered body, or if a perfect body falls to a man naturally vicious?

The answer is that the Soul, to whichever side it inclines, has in some varying degree the power of working the forms of body over to its own temper, since outlying and accidental circumstances cannot overrule the entire decision of a Soul. Where we read that, after the casting of lots, the sample lives are exhibited with the casual circumstances attending them and that the choice is made upon vision, in accordance with the individual temperament, we are given to understand that the real determination lies with the Souls, who adapt the allotted conditions to their own particular quality.

The Timaeus indicates the relation of this guiding spirit to ourselves: it is not entirely outside of ourselves; is not bound up with our nature; is not the agent in our action; it belongs to us as belonging to our Soul, but not in so far as we are particular human beings living a life to which it is superior: take the passage in this sense and it is consistent; understand this Spirit otherwise and there is contradiction. And the description of the Spirit, moreover, as “the power which consummates the chosen life,” is, also, in agreement with this interpretation; for while its presidency saves us from falling much deeper into evil, the only direct agent within us is some thing neither above it nor equal to it but under it: Man cannot cease to be characteristically Man.

6. What, then, is the achieved Sage?

One whose Act is determined by the higher phase of the Soul.

It does not suffice to perfect virtue to have only this Spirit [equivalent in all men] as cooperator in the life: the acting force in the Sage is the Intellective Principle [the diviner phase of the human Soul] which therefore is itself his presiding spirit or is guided by a presiding spirit of its own, no other than the very Divinity.

But this exalts the Sage above the Intellectual Principle as possessing for presiding spirit the Prior to the Intellectual Principle: how then does it come about that he was not, from the very beginning, all that he now is?

The failure is due to the disturbance caused by birth — though, before all reasoning, there exists the instinctive movement reaching out towards its own.

On instinct which the Sage finally rectifies in every respect?

Not in every respect: the Soul is so constituted that its life-history and its general tendency will answer not merely to its own nature but also to the conditions among which it acts.

The presiding Spirit, as we read, conducting a Soul to the Underworld ceases to be its guardian — except when the Soul resumes [in its later choice] the former state of life.

But, meanwhile, what happens to it?

From the passage [in the Phaedo] which tells how it presents the Soul to judgement we gather that after the death it resumes the form it had before the birth, but that then, beginning again, it is present to the Souls in their punishment during the period of their renewed life — a time not so much of living as of expiation.

But the Souls that enter into brute bodies, are they controlled by some thing less than this presiding Spirit? No: theirs is still a Spirit, but an evil or a foolish one.

And the Souls that attain to the highest?

Of these higher Souls some live in the world of Sense, some above it: and those in the world of Sense inhabit the Sun or another of the planetary bodies; the others occupy the fixed Sphere [above the planetary] holding the place they have merited through having lived here the superior life of reason.

We must understand that, while our Souls do contain an Intellectual Kosmos they also contain a subordination of various forms like that of the Kosmic Soul. The world Soul is distributed so as to produce the fixed sphere and the planetary circuits corresponding to its graded powers: so with our Souls; they must have their provinces according to their different powers, parallel to those of the World Soul: each must give out its own special act; released, each will inhabit there a star consonant with the temperament and faculty in act within and constituting the principle of the life; and this star or the next highest power will stand to them as God or more exactly as tutelary spirit.

But here some further precision is needed.

Emancipated Souls, for the whole period of their sojourn there above, have transcended the Spirit-nature and the entire fatality of birth and all that belongs to this visible world, for they have taken up with them that Hypostasis of the Soul in which the desire of earthly life is vested. This Hypostasis may be described as the distributable Soul, for it is what enters bodily forms and multiplies itself by this division among them. But its distribution is not a matter of magnitudes; wherever it is present, there is the same thing present entire; its unity can always be reconstructed: when living things — animal or vegetal — produce their constant succession of new forms, they do so in virtue of the self-distribution of this phase of the Soul, for it must be as much distributed among the new forms as the propagating originals are. In some cases it communicates its force by permanent presence the life principle in plants for instance — in other cases it withdraws after imparting its virtue — for instance where from the putridity of dead animal or vegetable matter a multitudinous birth is produced from one organism.

A power corresponding to this in the All must reach down and co-operate in the life of our world — in fact the very same power.

If the Soul returns to this Sphere it finds itself under the same Spirit or a new, according to the life it is to live. With this Spirit it embarks in the skiff of the universe: the “spindle of Necessity” then takes control and appoints the seat for the voyage, the seat of the lot in life.

The Universal circuit is like a breeze, and the voyager, still or stirring, is carried forward by it. He has a hundred varied experiences, fresh sights, changing circumstances, all sorts of events. The vessel itself furnishes incident, tossing as it drives on. And the voyager also acts of himself in virtue of that individuality which he retains because he is on the vessel in his own person and character. Under identical circumstances individuals answer very differently in their movements and acts: hence it comes about that, be the occurrences and conditions of life similar or dissimilar, the result may differ from man to man, as on the other hand a similar result may be produced by dissimilar conditions: this (personal answer to incident) it is that constitutes destiny.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/p/plotinus/p72e/part3.4.html

Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 16:24