The Six Enneads, by Plotinus

Ninth Tractate.

Detached Considerations.

1. “The Intellectual-Principle” [= the Divine Mind]— we read [in the Timaeus]—“looks upon the Ideas indwelling in that Being which is the Essentially Living [= according to Plotinus, the Intellectual Realm], “and then”— the text proceeds —“the Creator judged that all the content of that essentially living Being must find place in this lower universe also.”

Are we meant to gather that the Ideas came into being before the Intellectual-Principle so that it “sees them” as previously existent?

The first step is to make sure whether the “Living Being” of the text is to be distinguished from the Intellectual-Principle as another thing than it.

It might be argued that the Intellectual-Principle is the Contemplator and therefore that the Living-Being contemplated is not the Intellectual-Principle but must be described as the Intellectual Object so that the Intellectual-Principle must possess the Ideal realm as something outside of itself.

But this would mean that it possesses images and not the realities, since the realities are in the Intellectual Realm which it contemplates: Reality — we read — is in the Authentic Existent which contains the essential form of particular things.

No: even though the Intellectual-Principle and the Intellectual Object are distinct, they are not apart except for just that distinction.

Nothing in the statement cited is inconsistent with the conception that these two constitute one substance — though, in a unity, admitting that distinction, of the intellectual act [as against passivity], without which there can be no question of an Intellectual-Principle and an Intellectual Object: what is meant is not that the contemplatory Being possesses its vision as in some other principle, but that it contains the Intellectual Realm within itself.

The Intelligible Object is the Intellectual-Principle itself in its repose, unity, immobility: the Intellectual-Principle, contemplator of that object — of the Intellectual-Principle thus in repose is an active manifestation of the same Being, an Act which contemplates its unmoved phase and, as thus contemplating, stands as Intellectual-Principle to that of which it has the intellection: it is Intellectual-Principle in virtue of having that intellection, and at the same time is Intellectual Object, by assimilation.

This, then, is the Being which planned to create in the lower Universe what it saw existing in the Supreme, the four orders of living beings.

No doubt the passage: [of the Timaeus] seems to imply tacitly that this planning Principle is distinct from the other two: but the three — the Essentially-Living, the Intellectual-Principle and this planning Principle will, to others, be manifestly one: the truth is that, by a common accident, a particular trend of thought has occasioned the discrimination.

We have dealt with the first two; but the third — this Principle which decides to work upon the objects [the Ideas] contemplated by the Intellectual-Principle within the Essentially-Living, to create them, to establish them in their partial existence — what is this third?

It is possible that in one aspect the Intellectual-Principle is the principle of partial existence, while in another aspect it is not.

The entities thus particularized from the unity are products of the Intellectual-Principle which thus would be, to that extent, the separating agent. On the other hand it remains in itself, indivisible; division begins with its offspring which, of course, means with Souls: and thus a Soul — with its particular Souls — may be the separative principle.

This is what is conveyed where we are told that the separation is the work of the third Principle and begins within the Third: for to this Third belongs the discursive reasoning which is no function of the Intellectual-Principle but characteristic of its secondary, of Soul, to which precisely, divided by its own Kind, belongs the Act of division.

2. . . . For in any one science the reduction of the total of knowledge into its separate propositions does not shatter its unity, chipping it into unrelated fragments; in each distinct item is talent the entire body of the science, an integral thing in its highest Principle and its last detail: and similarly a man must so discipline himself that the first Principles of his Being are also his completions, are totals, that all be pointed towards the loftiest phase of the Nature: when a man has become this unity in the best, he is in that other realm; for it is by this highest within himself, made his own, that he holds to the Supreme.

At no point did the All-Soul come into Being: it never arrived, for it never knew place; what happens is that body, neighbouring with it, participates in it: hence Plato does not place Soul in body but body in Soul. The others, the secondary Souls, have a point of departure — they come from the All-Soul — and they have a Place into which to descend and in which to change to and fro, a place, therefore, from which to ascend: but this All-Soul is for ever Above, resting in that Being in which it holds its existence as Soul and followed, as next, by the Universe or, at least, by all beneath the sun.

The partial Soul is illuminated by moving towards the Soul above it; for on that path it meets Authentic Existence. Movement towards the lower is towards non-Being: and this is the step it takes when it is set on self; for by willing towards itself it produces its lower, an image of itself — a non-Being — and so is wandering, as it were, into the void, stripping itself of its own determined form. And this image, this undetermined thing, is blank darkness, for it is utterly without reason, untouched by the Intellectual-Principle, far removed from Authentic Being.

As long as it remains at the mid-stage it is in its own peculiar region; but when, by a sort of inferior orientation, it looks downward, it shapes that lower image and flings itself joyfully thither.

3. (A) . . . How, then, does Unity give rise to Multiplicity?

By its omnipresence: there is nowhere where it is not; it occupies, therefore, all that is; at once, it is manifold — or, rather, it is all things.

If it were simply and solely everywhere, all would be this one thing alone: but it is, also, in no place, and this gives, in the final result, that, while all exists by means of it, in virtue of its omnipresence, all is distinct from it in virtue of its being nowhere.

But why is it not merely present everywhere but in addition nowhere-present?

Because, universality demands a previous unity. It must, therefore, pervade all things and make all, but not be the universe which it makes.

(B) The Soul itself must exist as Seeing — with the Intellectual-Principle as the object of its vision — it is undetermined before it sees but is naturally apt to see: in other words, Soul is Matter to [its determinant] the Intellectual-Principle.

(C) When we exercise intellection upon ourselves, we are, obviously, observing an intellective nature, for otherwise we would not be able to have that intellection.

We know, and it is ourselves that we know; therefore we know the reality of a knowing nature: therefore, before that intellection in Act, there is another intellection, one at rest, so to speak.

Similarly, that self-intellection is an act upon a reality and upon a life; therefore, before the Life and Real-Being concerned in the intellection, there must be another Being and Life. In a word, intellection is vested in the activities themselves: since, then, the activities of self-intellection are intellective-forms, We, the Authentic We, are the Intelligibles and self-intellection conveys the Image of the Intellectual Sphere.

(D) The Primal is a potentiality of Movement and of Repose — and so is above and beyond both — its next subsequent has rest and movement about the Primal. Now this subsequent is the Intellectual-Principle — so characterized by having intellection of something not identical with itself whereas the Primal is without intellection. A knowing principle has duality [that entailed by being the knower of something) and, moreover, it knows itself as deficient since its virtue consists in this knowing and not in its own bare Being.

(E) In the case of everything which has developed from possibility to actuality the actual is that which remains self-identical for its entire duration — and this it is which makes perfection possible even in things of the corporeal order, as for instance in fire but the actual of this kind cannot be everlasting since [by the fact of their having once existed only in potentiality] Matter has its place in them. In anything, on the contrary, not composite [= never touched by Matter or potentiality] and possessing actuality, that actual existence is eternal . . . There is, however, the case, also in which a thing, itself existing in actuality, stands as potentiality to some other form of Being.

(F) . . . But the First is not to be envisaged as made up from Gods of a transcendent order: no; the Authentic Existents constitute the Intellectual-Principle with Which motion and rest begin. The Primal touches nothing, but is the centre round which those other Beings lie in repose and in movement. For Movement is aiming, and the Primal aims at nothing; what could the Summit aspire to?

Has It, even, no Intellection of Itself?

It possesses Itself and therefore is said in general terms to know itself . . . But intellection does not mean self-ownership; it means turning the gaze towards the Primal: now the act of intellection is itself the Primal Act, and there is therefore no place for any earlier one. The Being projecting this Act transcends the Act so that Intellection is secondary to the Being in which it resides. Intellection is not the transcendently venerable thing — neither Intellection in general nor even the Intellection of The Good. Apart from and over any Intellection stands The Good itself.

The Good therefore needs no consciousness.

What sort of consciousness can be conceived in it?

Consciousness of the Good as existent or non-existent?

If of existent Good, that Good exists before and without any such consciousness: if the act of consciousness produces that Good, then The Good was not previously in existence — and, at once, the very consciousness falls to the ground since it is, no longer consciousness of The Good.

But would not all this mean that the First does not even live?

The First cannot be said to live since it is the source of Life.

All that has self-consciousness and self-intellection is derivative; it observes itself in order, by that activity, to become master of its Being: and if it study itself this can mean only that ignorance inheres in it and that it is of its own nature lacking and to be made perfect by Intellection.

All thinking and knowing must, here, be eliminated: the addition introduces deprivation and deficiency.

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