The Six Enneads, by Plotinus

Third Tractate.

The Knowing Hypostases and the Transcendent.

1. Are we to think that a being knowing itself must contain diversity, that self-knowledge can be affirmed only when some one phase of the self perceives other phases, and that therefore an absolutely simplex entity would be equally incapable of introversion and of self-awareness?

No: a being that has no parts or phases may have this consciousness; in fact there would be no real self-knowing in an entity presented as knowing itself in virtue of being a compound — some single element in it perceiving other elements — as we may know our own form and entire bodily organism by sense-perception: such knowing does not cover the whole field; the knowing element has not had the required cognisance at once of its associates and of itself; this is not the self-knower asked for; it is merely something that knows something else.

Either we must exhibit the self-knowing of an uncompounded being — and show how that is possible — or abandon the belief that any being can possess veritable self-cognition.

To abandon the belief is not possible in view of the many absurdities thus entailed.

It would be already absurd enough to deny this power to the soul or mind, but the very height of absurdity to deny it to the nature of the Intellectual-Principle, presented thus as knowing the rest of things but not attaining to knowledge, or even awareness, of itself.

It is the province of sense and in some degree of understanding and judgement, but not of the Intellectual-Principle, to handle the external, though whether the Intellectual-Principle holds the knowledge of these things is a question to be examined, but it is obvious that the Intellectual-Principle must have knowledge of the Intellectual objects. Now, can it know those objects alone or must it not simultaneously know itself, the being whose function it is to know just those things? Can it have self-knowledge in the sense [dismissed above as inadequate] of knowing its content while it ignores itself? Can it be aware of knowing its members and yet remain in ignorance of its own knowing self? Self and content must be simultaneously present: the method and degree of this knowledge we must now consider.

2. We begin with the soul, asking whether it is to be allowed self-knowledge and what the knowing principle in it would be and how operating.

The sense-principle in it we may at once decide, takes cognisance only of the external; even in any awareness of events within the body it occupies, this is still the perception of something external to a principle dealing with those bodily conditions not as within but as beneath itself.

The reasoning-principle in the Soul acts upon the representations standing before it as the result of sense-perception; these it judges, combining, distinguishing: or it may also observe the impressions, so to speak, rising from the Intellectual-Principle, and has the same power of handling these; and reasoning will develop to wisdom where it recognizes the new and late-coming impressions [those of sense] and adapts them, so to speak, to those it holds from long before — the act which may be described as the soul’s Reminiscence.

So far as this, the efficacy of the Intellectual-Principle in the Soul certainly reaches; but is there also introversion and self-cognition or is that power to be reserved strictly for the Divine Mind?

If we accord self-knowing to this phase of the soul we make it an Intellectual-Principle and will have to show what distinguishes it from its prior; if we refuse it self-knowing, all our thought brings us step by step to some principle which has this power, and we must discover what such self-knowing consists in. If, again, we do allow self-knowledge in the lower we must examine the question of degree; for if there is no difference of degree, then the reasoning principle in soul is the Intellectual-Principle unalloyed.

We ask, then, whether the understanding principle in the soul has equally the power of turning inwards upon itself or whether it has no more than that of comprehending the impressions, superior and inferior, which it receives.

The first stage is to discover what this comprehension is.

3. Sense sees a man and transmits the impression to the understanding. What does the understanding say? It has nothing to say as yet; it accepts and waits; unless, rather, it questions within itself “Who is this?”— someone it has met before — and then, drawing on memory, says, “Socrates.”

If it should go on to develop the impression received, it distinguishes various elements in what the representative faculty has set before it; supposing it to say “Socrates, if the man is good,” then, while it has spoken upon information from the senses, its total pronouncement is its own; it contains within itself a standard of good.

But how does it thus contain the good within itself?

It is, itself, of the nature of the good and it has been strengthened still towards the perception of all that is good by the irradiation of the Intellectual-Principle upon it; for this pure phase of the soul welcomes to itself the images implanted from its prior.

But why may we not distinguish this understanding phase as Intellectual-Principle and take soul to consist of the later phases from the sensitive downwards?

Because all the activities mentioned are within the scope of a reasoning faculty, and reasoning is characteristically the function of soul.

Why not, however, absolve the question by assigning self-cognisance to this phase?

Because we have allotted to soul the function of dealing — in thought and in multiform action — with the external, and we hold that observation of self and of the content of self must belong to Intellectual-Principle.

If any one says, “Still; what precludes the reasoning soul from observing its own content by some special faculty?” he is no longer posting a principle of understanding or of reasoning but, simply, bringing in the Intellectual-Principle unalloyed.

But what precludes the Intellectual-Principle from being present, unalloyed, within the soul? Nothing, we admit; but are we entitled therefore to think of it as a phase of soul?

We cannot describe it as belonging to the soul though we do describe it as our Intellectual-Principle, something distinct from the understanding, advanced above it, and yet ours even though we cannot include it among soul-phases: it is ours and not ours; and therefore we use it sometimes and sometimes not, whereas we always have use of the understanding; the Intellectual-Principle is ours when we act by it, not ours when we neglect it.

But what is this acting by it? Does it mean that we become the Intellectual-Principle so that our utterance is the utterance of the Intellectual-Principle, or that we represent it?

We are not the Intellectual-Principle; we represent it in virtue of that highest reasoning faculty which draws upon it.

Still; we perceive by means of the perceptive faculty and are, ourselves, the percipients: may we not say the same of the intellective act?

No: our reasoning is our own; we ourselves think the thoughts that occupy the understanding — for this is actually the We — but the operation of the Intellectual-Principle enters from above us as that of the sensitive faculty from below; the We is the soul at its highest, the mid-point between two powers, between the sensitive principle, inferior to us, and the intellectual principle superior. We think of the perceptive act as integral to ourselves because our sense-perception is uninterrupted; we hesitate as to the Intellectual-Principle both because we are not always occupied with it and because it exists apart, not a principle inclining to us but one to which we incline when we choose to look upwards.

The sensitive principle is our scout; the Intellectual-Principle our King.

4. But we, too, are king when we are moulded to the Intellectual-Principle.

That correspondence may be brought about in two ways: either the radii from that centre are traced upon us to be our law or we are filled full of the Divine Mind, which again may have become to us a thing seen and felt as a presence.

Hence our self-knowing comes to the knowing of all the rest of our being in virtue of this thing patently present; or by that power itself communicating to us its own power of self-knowing; or by our becoming identical with that principle of knowledge.

Thus the self-knower is a double person: there is the one that takes cognisance of the principle in virtue of which understanding occurs in the soul or mind; and there is the higher, knowing himself by the Intellectual-Principle with which he becomes identical: this latter knows the self as no longer man but as a being that has become something other through and through: he has thrown himself as one thing over into the superior order, taking with him only that better part of the soul which alone is winged for the Intellectual Act and gives the man, once established There, the power to appropriate what he has seen.

We can scarcely suppose this understanding faculty to be unaware that it has understanding; that it takes cognisance of things external; that in its judgements it decides by the rules and standards within itself held directly from the Intellectual-Principle; that there is something higher than itself, something which, moreover, it has no need to seek but fully possesses. What can we conceive to escape the self-knowledge of a principle which admittedly knows the place it holds and the work it has to do? It affirms that it springs from Intellectual-Principle whose second and image it is, that it holds all within itself, the universe of things, engraved, so to say, upon it as all is held There by the eternal engraver. Aware so far of itself, can it be supposed to halt at that? Are we to suppose that all we can do is to apply a distinct power of our nature and come thus to awareness of that Intellectual-Principle as aware of itself? Or may we not appropriate that principle — which belongs to us as we to it — and thus attain to awareness, at once, of it and of ourselves? Yes: this is the necessary way if we are to experience the self-knowledge vested in the Intellectual-Principle. And a man becomes Intellectual-Principle when, ignoring all other phases of his being, he sees through that only and sees only that and so knows himself by means of the self — in other words attains the self-knowledge which the Intellectual-Principle possesses.

5. Does it all come down, then, to one phase of the self knowing another phase?

That would be a case of knower distinguished from known, and would not be self-knowing.

What, then, if the total combination were supposed to be of one piece, knower quite undistinguished from known, so that, seeing any given part of itself as identical with itself, it sees itself by means of itself, knower and known thus being entirely without differentiation?

To begin with, the distinction in one self thus suggested is a strange phenomenon. How is the self to make the partition? The thing cannot happen of itself. And, again, which phase makes it? The phase that decides to be the knower or that which is to be the known? Then how can the knowing phase know itself in the known when it has chosen to be the knower and put itself apart from the known? In such self-knowledge by sundering it can be aware only of the object, not of the agent; it will not know its entire content, or itself as an integral whole; it knows the phase seen but not the seeing phase and thus has knowledge of something else, not self-knowledge.

In order to perfect self-knowing it must bring over from itself the knowing phase as well: seeing subject and seen objects must be present as one thing. Now if in this coalescence of seeing subject with seen objects, the objects were merely representations of the reality, the subject would not possess the realities: if it is to possess them it must do so not by seeing them as the result of any self-division but by knowing them, containing them, before any self-division occurs.

At that, the object known must be identical with the knowing act [or agent], the Intellectual-Principle, therefore, identical with the Intellectual Realm. And in fact, if this identity does not exist, neither does truth; the Principle that should contain realities is found to contain a transcript, something different from the realities; that constitutes non-Truth; Truth cannot apply to something conflicting with itself; what it affirms it must also be.

Thus we find that the Intellectual-Principle, the Intellectual Realm and Real Being constitute one thing, which is the Primal Being; the primal Intellectual-Principle is that which contains the realities or, rather, which is identical with them.

But taking Primal Intellection and its intellectual object to be a unity, how does that give an Intellective Being knowing itself? An intellection enveloping its object or identical with it is far from exhibiting the Intellectual-Principle as self-knowing.

All turns on the identity. The intellectual object is itself an activity, not a mere potentiality; it is not lifeless; nor are the life and intellection brought into it as into something naturally devoid of them, some stone or other dead matter; no, the intellectual object is essentially existent, the primal reality. As an active force, the first activity, it must be, also itself, the noblest intellection, intellection possessing real being since it is entirely true; and such an intellection, primal and primally existent, can be no other than the primal principle of Intellection: for that primal principle is no potentiality and cannot be an agent distinct from its act and thus, once more, possessing its essential being as a mere potentiality. As an act — and one whose very being is an act — it must be undistinguishably identical with its act: but Being and the Intellectual object are also identical with that act; therefore the Intellectual-Principle, its exercise of intellection and the object of intellection all are identical. Given its intellection identical with intellectual object and the object identical with the Principle itself, it cannot but have self-knowledge: its intellection operates by the intellectual act which is itself upon the intellectual object which similarly is itself. It possesses self-knowing, thus, on every count; the act is itself; and the object seen in that act — self, is itself.

6. Thus we have shown that there exists that which in the strictest sense possesses self-knowing.

This self-knowing agent, perfect in the Intellectual-Principle, is modified in the Soul.

The difference is that, while the soul knows itself as within something else, the Intellectual-Principle knows itself as self-depending, knows all its nature and character, and knows by right of its own being and by simple introversion. When it looks upon the authentic existences it is looking upon itself; its vision as its effective existence, and this efficacy is itself since the Intellectual-Principle and the Intellectual Act are one: this is an integral seeing itself by its entire being, not a part seeing by a part.

But has our discussion issued in an Intellectual-Principle having a persuasive activity [furnishing us with probability]?

No: it brings compulsion not persuasion; compulsion belongs to the Intellectual-Principle, persuasion to the soul or mind, and we seem to desire to be persuaded rather than to see the truth in the pure intellect.

As long as we were Above, collected within the Intellectual nature, we were satisfied; we were held in the intellectual act; we had vision because we drew all into unity — for the thinker in us was the Intellectual-Principle telling us of itself — and the soul or mind was motionless, assenting to that act of its prior. But now that we are once more here — living in the secondary, the soul — we seek for persuasive probabilities: it is through the image we desire to know the archetype.

Our way is to teach our soul how the Intellectual-Principle exercises self-vision; the phase thus to be taught is that which already touches the intellective order, that which we call the understanding or intelligent soul, indicating by the very name that it is already of itself in some degree an Intellectual-Principle or that it holds its peculiar power through and from that Principle. This phase must be brought to understand by what means it has knowledge of the thing it sees and warrant for what it affirms: if it became what it affirms, it would by that fact possess self-knowing. All its vision and affirmation being in the Supreme or deriving from it — There where itself also is — it will possess self-knowledge by its right as a Reason-Principle, claiming its kin and bringing all into accord with the divine imprint upon it.

The soul therefore [to attain self-knowledge] has only to set this image [that is to say, its highest phase] alongside the veritable Intellectual-Principle which we have found to be identical with the truths constituting the objects of intellection, the world of Primals and Reality: for this Intellectual-Principle, by very definition, cannot be outside of itself, the Intellectual Reality: self-gathered and unalloyed, it is Intellectual-Principle through all the range of its being — for unintelligent intelligence is not possible — and thus it possesses of necessity self-knowing, as a being immanent to itself and one having for function and essence to be purely and solely Intellectual-Principle. This is no doer; the doer, not self-intent but looking outward, will have knowledge, in some kind, of the external, but, if wholly of this practical order, need have no self-knowledge; where, on the contrary, there is no action — and of course the pure Intellectual-Principle cannot be straining after any absent good — the intention can be only towards the self; at once self-knowing becomes not merely plausible but inevitable; what else could living signify in a being immune from action and existing in Intellect?

7. The contemplating of God, we might answer.

But to admit its knowing God is to be compelled to admit its self-knowing. It will know what it holds from God, what God has given forth or may; with this knowledge, it knows itself at the stroke, for it is itself one of those given things — in fact is all of them. Knowing God and His power, then, it knows itself, since it comes from Him and carries His power upon it; if, because here the act of vision is identical with the object, it is unable to see God clearly, then all the more, by the equation of seeing and seen, we are driven back upon that self-seeing and self-knowing in which seeing and thing seen are undistinguishably one thing.

And what else is there to attribute to it?

Repose, no doubt; but, to an Intellectual-Principle, Repose is not an abdication from intellect; its Repose is an Act, the act of abstention from the alien: in all forms of existence repose from the alien leaves the characteristic activity intact, especially where the Being is not merely potential but fully realized.

In the Intellectual-Principle, the Being is an Act and in the absence of any other object it must be self-directed; by this self-intellection it holds its Act within itself and upon itself; all that can emanate from it is produced by this self-centering and self-intention; first — self-gathered, it then gives itself or gives something in its likeness; fire must first be self-centred and be fire, true to fire’s natural Act; then it may reproduce itself elsewhere.

Once more, then; the Intellectual-Principle is a self-intent activity, but soul has the double phase, one inner, intent upon the Intellectual-Principle, the other outside it and facing to the external; by the one it holds the likeness to its source; by the other, even in its unlikeness, it still comes to likeness in this sphere, too, by virtue of action and production; in its action it still contemplates, and its production produces Ideal-forms — divine intellections perfectly wrought out — so that all its creations are representations of the divine Intellection and of the divine Intellect, moulded upon the archetype, of which all are emanations and images, the nearer more true, the very latest preserving some faint likeness of the source.

8. Now comes the question what sort of thing does the Intellectual-Principle see in seeing the Intellectual Realm and what in seeing itself?

We are not to look for an Intellectual realm reminding us of the colour or shape to be seen on material objects: the intellectual antedates all such things; and even in our sphere the production is very different from the Reason-Principle in the seeds from which it is produced. The seed principles are invisible and the beings of the Intellectual still more characteristically so; the Intellectuals are of one same nature with the Intellectual Realm which contains them, just as the Reason-Principle in the seed is identical with the soul, or life-principle, containing it.

But the Soul (considered as apart from the Intellectual-Principle) has no vision of what it thus contains, for it is not the producer but, like the Reason-Principles also, an image of its source: that source is the brilliant, the authentic, the primarily existent, the thing self-sprung and self-intent; but its image, soul, is a thing which can have no permanence except by attachment, by living in that other; the very nature of an image is that, as a secondary, it shall have its being in something else, if at all it exist apart from its original. Hence this image (soul) has not vision, for it has not the necessary light, and, if it should see, then, as finding its completion elsewhere, it sees another, not itself.

In the pure Intellectual there is nothing of this: the vision and the envisioned are a unity; the seen is as the seeing and seeing as seen.

What, then, is there that can pronounce upon the nature of this all-unity?

That which sees: and to see is the function of the Intellectual-Principle. Even in our own sphere [we have a parallel to this self-vision of a unity], our vision is light or rather becomes one with light, and it sees light for it sees colours. In the intellectual, the vision sees not through some medium but by and through itself alone, for its object is not external: by one light it sees another not through any intermediate agency; a light sees a light, that is to say a thing sees itself. This light shining within the soul enlightens it; that is, it makes the soul intellective, working it into likeness with itself, the light above.

Think of the traces of this light upon the soul, then say to yourself that such, and more beautiful and broader and more radiant, is the light itself; thus you will approach to the nature of the Intellectual-Principle and the Intellectual Realm, for it is this light, itself lit from above, which gives the soul its brighter life.

It is not the source of the generative life of the soul which, on the contrary, it draws inward, preserving it from such diffusion, holding it to the love of the splendour of its Prior.

Nor does it give the life of perception and sensation, for that looks to the external and to what acts most vigorously upon the senses whereas one accepting that light of truth may be said no longer to see the visible, but the very contrary.

This means in sum that the life the soul takes thence is an intellective life, a trace of the life in the [divine] Intellect, in which alone the authentic exists.

The life in the Divine Intellect is also an Act: it is the primal light outlamping to itself primarily, its own torch; light-giver and lit at once; the authentic intellectual object, knowing at once and known, seen to itself and needing no other than itself to see by, self-sufficing to the vision, since what it sees it is; known to us by that very same light, our knowledge of it attained through itself, for from nowhere else could we find the means of telling of it. By its nature, its self-vision is the clearer but, using it as our medium, we too may come to see by it.

In the strength of such considerations we lead up our own soul to the Divine, so that it poses itself as an image of that Being, its life becoming an imprint and a likeness of the Highest, its every act of thought making it over into the Divine and the Intellectual.

If the soul is questioned as to the nature of that Intellectual-Principle — the perfect and all-embracing, the primal self-knower — it has but to enter into that Principle, or to sink all its activity into that, and at once it shows itself to be in effective possession of those priors whose memory it never lost: thus, as an image of the Intellectual-Principle, it can make itself the medium by which to attain some vision of it; it draws upon that within itself which is most closely resemblant, as far as resemblance is possible between divine Intellect and any phase of soul.

9. In order, then, to know what the Divine Mind is, we must observe soul and especially its most God-like phase.

One certain way to this knowledge is to separate first, the man from the body — yourself, that is, from your body — next to put aside that soul which moulded the body, and, very earnestly, the system of sense with desires and impulses and every such futility, all setting definitely towards the mortal: what is left is the phase of the soul which we have declared to be an image of the Divine Intellect, retaining some light from that sun, while it pours downward upon the sphere of magnitudes [that is, of Matter] the light playing about itself which is generated from its own nature.

Of course we do not pretend that the sun’s light [as the analogy might imply] remains a self-gathered and sun-centred thing: it is at once outrushing and indwelling; it strikes outward continuously, lap after lap, until it reaches us upon our earth: we must take it that all the light, including that which plays about the sun’s orb, has travelled; otherwise we would have a void expanse, that of the space — which is material — next to the sun’s orb. The Soul, on the contrary — a light springing from the Divine Mind and shining about it — is in closest touch with that source; it is not in transit but remains centred there, and, in likeness to that principle, it has no place: the light of the sun is actually in the air, but the soul is clean of all such contact so that its immunity is patent to itself and to any other of the same order.

And by its own characteristic act, though not without reasoning process, it knows the nature of the Intellectual-Principle which, on its side, knows itself without need of reasoning, for it is ever self-present whereas we become so by directing our soul towards it; our life is broken and there are many lives, but that principle needs no changings of life or of things; the lives it brings to being are for others not for itself: it cannot need the inferior; nor does it for itself produce the less when it possesses or is the all, nor the images when it possesses or is the prototype.

Anyone not of the strength to lay hold of the first soul, that possessing pure intellection, must grasp that which has to do with our ordinary thinking and thence ascend: if even this prove too hard, let him turn to account the sensitive phase which carries the ideal forms of the less fine degree, that phase which, too, with its powers, is immaterial and lies just within the realm of Ideal-principles.

One may even, if it seem necessary, begin as low as the reproductive soul and its very production and thence make the ascent, mounting from those ultimate ideal principles to the ultimates in the higher sense, that is to the primals.

10. This matter need not be elaborated at present: it suffices to say that if the created were all, these ultimates [the higher] need not exist: but the Supreme does include primals, the primals because the producers. In other words, there must be, with the made, the making source; and, unless these are to be identical, there will be need of some link between them. Similarly, this link which is the Intellectual-Principle demands yet a Transcendent. If we are asked why this Transcendent also should not have self-vision, our answer is that it has no need of vision; but this we will discuss later: for the moment we go back, since the question at issue is gravely important.

We repeat that the Intellectual-Principle must have, actually has, self-vision, firstly because it has multiplicity, next because it exists for the external and therefore must be a seeing power, one seeing that external; in fact its very essence is vision. Given some external, there must be vision; and if there be nothing external the Intellectual-Principle [Divine Mind] exists in vain. Unless there is something beyond bare unity, there can be no vision: vision must converge with a visible object. And this which the seer is to see can be only a multiple, no undistinguishable unity; nor could a universal unity find anything upon which to exercise any act; all, one and desolate, would be utter stagnation; in so far as there is action, there is diversity. If there be no distinctions, what is there to do, what direction in which to move? An agent must either act upon the extern or be a multiple and so able to act upon itself: making no advance towards anything other than itself, it is motionless and where it could know only blank fixity it can know nothing.

The intellective power, therefore, when occupied with the intellectual act, must be in a state of duality, whether one of the two elements stand actually outside or both lie within: the intellectual act will always comport diversity as well as the necessary identity, and in the same way its characteristic objects [the Ideas] must stand to the Intellectual-Principle as at once distinct and identical. This applies equally to the single object; there can be no intellection except of something containing separable detail and, since the object is a Reason-principle [a discriminated Idea] it has the necessary element of multiplicity. The Intellectual-Principle, thus, is informed of itself by the fact of being a multiple organ of vision, an eye receptive of many illuminated objects. If it had to direct itself to a memberless unity, it would be dereasoned: what could it say or know of such an object? The self-affirmation of [even] a memberless unity implies the repudiation of all that does not enter into the character: in other words, it must be multiple as a preliminary to being itself.

Then, again, in the assertion “I am this particular thing,” either the “particular thing” is distinct from the assertor — and there is a false statement — or it is included within it, and, at once, multiplicity is asserted: otherwise the assertion is “I am what I am,” or “I am I.”

If it be no more than a simple duality able to say “I and that other phase,” there is already multiplicity, for there is distinction and ground of distinction, there is number with all its train of separate things.

In sum, then, a knowing principle must handle distinct items: its object must, at the moment of cognition, contain diversity; otherwise the thing remains unknown; there is mere conjunction, such a contact, without affirmation or comprehension, as would precede knowledge, the intellect not yet in being, the impinging agent not percipient.

Similarly the knowing principle itself cannot remain simplex, especially in the act of self-knowing: all silent though its self-perception be, it is dual to itself. Of course it has no need of minute self-handling since it has nothing to learn by its intellective act; before it is [effectively] Intellect, it holds knowledge of its own content. Knowledge implies desire, for it is, so to speak, discovery crowning a search; the utterly undifferentiated remains self-centred and makes no enquiry about that self: anything capable of analysing its content, must be a manifold.

11. Thus the Intellectual-Principle, in the act of knowing the Transcendent, is a manifold. It knows the Transcendent in very essence but, with all its effort to grasp that prior as a pure unity, it goes forth amassing successive impressions, so that, to it, the object becomes multiple: thus in its outgoing to its object it is not [fully realised] Intellectual-Principle; it is an eye that has not yet seen; in its return it is an eye possessed of the multiplicity which it has itself conferred: it sought something of which it found the vague presentment within itself; it returned with something else, the manifold quality with which it has of its own act invested the simplex.

If it had not possessed a previous impression of the Transcendent, it could never have grasped it, but this impression, originally of unity, becomes an impression of multiplicity; and the Intellectual-Principle, in taking cognisance of that multiplicity, knows the Transcendent and so is realized as an eye possessed of its vision.

It is now Intellectual-Principle since it actually holds its object, and holds it by the act of intellection: before, it was no more than a tendance, an eye blank of impression: it was in motion towards the transcendental; now that it has attained, it has become Intellectual-Principle henceforth absorbed; in virtue of this intellection it holds the character of Intellectual-Principle, of Essential Existence and of Intellectual Act where, previously, not possessing the Intellectual Object, it was not Intellectual Perception, and, not yet having exercised the Intellectual Act, it was not Intellectual-Principle.

The Principle before all these principles is no doubt the first principle of the universe, but not as immanent: immanence is not for primal sources but for engendering secondaries; that which stands as primal source of everything is not a thing but is distinct from all things: it is not, then, a member of the total but earlier than all, earlier, thus, than the Intellectual-Principle — which in fact envelops the entire train of things.

Thus we come, once more, to a Being above the Intellectual-Principle and, since the sequent amounts to no less than the All, we recognise, again, a Being above the All. This assuredly cannot be one of the things to which it is prior. We may not call it “Intellect”; therefore, too, we may not call it “the Good,” if “the Good” is to be taken in the sense of some one member of the universe; if we mean that which precedes the universe of things, the name may be allowed.

The Intellectual-Principle is established in multiplicity; its intellection, self-sprung though it be, is in the nature of something added to it [some accidental dualism] and makes it multiple: the utterly simplex, and therefore first of all beings, must, then, transcend the Intellectual-Principle; and, obviously, if this had intellection it would no longer transcend the Intellectual-Principle but be it, and at once be a multiple.

12. But why, after all, should it not be such a manifold as long as it remains one substantial existence, having the multiplicity not of a compound being but of a unity with a variety of activities?

Now, no doubt, if these various activities are not themselves substantial existences — but merely manifestations of latent potentiality — there is no compound; but, on the other hand, it remains incomplete until its substantial existence be expressed in act. If its substantial existence consists in its Act, and this Act constitutes multiplicity, then its substantial existence will be strictly proportioned to the extent of the multiplicity.

We allow this to be true for the Intellectual-Principle to which we have allotted [the multiplicity of] self-knowing; but for the first principle of all, never. Before the manifold, there must be The One, that from which the manifold rises: in all numerical series, the unit is the first.

But — we will be answered — for number, well and good, since the suite makes a compound; but in the real beings why must there be a unit from which the multiplicity of entities shall proceed?

Because [failing such a unity] the multiplicity would consist of disjointed items, each starting at its own distinct place and moving accidentally to serve to a total.

But, they will tell us, the Activities in question do proceed from a unity, from the Intellectual-Principle, a simplex.

By that they admit the existence of a simplex prior to the Activities; and they make the Activities perdurable and class them as substantial existences [hypostases]; but as Hypostases they will be distinct from their source, which will remain simplex; while its product will in its own nature be manifold and dependent upon it.

Now if these activities arise from some unexplained first activity in that principle, then it too contains the manifold: if, on the contrary, they are the very earliest activities and the source and cause of any multiple product and the means by which that Principle is able, before any activity occurs, to remain self-centred, then they are allocated to the product of which they are the cause; for this principle is one thing, the activities going forth from it are another, since it is not, itself, in act. If this be not so, the first act cannot be the Intellectual-Principle: the One does not provide for the existence of an Intellectual-Principle which thereupon appears; that provision would be something [an Hypostasis] intervening between the One and the Intellectual-Principle, its offspring. There could, in fact, be no such providing in The One, for it was never incomplete; and such provision could name nothing that ought to be provided. It cannot be thought to possess only some part of its content, and not the whole; nor did anything exist to which it could turn in desire. Clearly anything that comes into being after it, arises without shaking to its permanence in its own habit. It is essential to the existence of any new entity that the First remain in self-gathered repose throughout: otherwise, it moved before there was motion and had intellectual act before any intellection — unless, indeed, that first act [as motionless and without intelligence] was incomplete, nothing more than a tendency. And what can we imagine it lights upon to become the object of such a tendency?

The only reasonable explanation of act flowing from it lies in the analogy of light from a sun. The entire intellectual order may be figured as a kind of light with the One in repose at its summit as its King: but this manifestation is not cast out from it: we may think, rather, of the One as a light before the light, an eternal irradiation resting upon the Intellectual Realm; this, not identical with its source, is yet not severed from it nor of so remote a nature as to be less than Real-Being; it is no blind thing, but is seeing and knowing, the primal knower.

The One, as transcending Intellect, transcends knowing: above all need, it is above the need of the knowing which pertains solely to the Secondary Nature. Knowing is a unitary thing, but defined: the first is One, but undefined: a defined One would not be the One-absolute: the absolute is prior to the definite.

13. Thus The One is in truth beyond all statement: any affirmation is of a thing; but the all-transcending, resting above even the most august divine Mind, possesses alone of all true being, and is not a thing among things; we can give it no name because that would imply predication: we can but try to indicate, in our own feeble way, something concerning it: when in our perplexity we object, “Then it is without self-perception, without self-consciousness, ignorant of itself”; we must remember that we have been considering it only in its opposites.

If we make it knowable, an object of affirmation, we make it a manifold; and if we allow intellection in it we make it at that point indigent: supposing that in fact intellection accompanies it, intellection by it must be superfluous.

Self-intellection — which is the truest — implies the entire perception of a total self formed from a variety converging into an integral; but the Transcendent knows neither separation of part nor any such enquiry; if its intellectual act were directed upon something outside, then, the Transcendent would be deficient and the intellection faulty.

The wholly simplex and veritable self-sufficing can be lacking at no point: self-intellection begins in that principle which, secondarily self-sufficing, yet needs itself and therefore needs to know itself: this principle, by its self-presence, achieves its sufficiency in virtue of its entire content [it is the all]: it becomes thus competent from the total of its being, in the act of living towards itself and looking upon itself.

Consciousness, as the very word indicates, is a conperception, an act exercised upon a manifold: and even intellection, earlier [nearer to the divine] though it is, implies that the agent turns back upon itself, upon a manifold, then. If that agent says no more than “I am a being,” it speaks [by the implied dualism] as a discoverer of the extern; and rightly so, for being is a manifold; when it faces towards the unmanifold and says, “I am that being,” it misses both itself and the being [since the simplex cannot be thus divided into knower and known]: if it is [to utter] truth it cannot indicate by “being” something like a stone; in the one phrase multiplicity is asserted; for the being thus affirmed —[even] the veritable, as distinguished from such a mere container of some trace of being as ought not to be called a being since it stands merely as image to archetype — even this must possess multiplicity.

But will not each item in that multiplicity be an object of intellection to us?

Taken bare and single, no: but Being itself is manifold within itself, and whatever else you may name has Being.

This accepted, it follows that anything that is to be thought of as the most utterly simplex of all cannot have self-intellection; to have that would mean being multiple. The Transcendent, thus, neither knows itself nor is known in itself.

14. How, then, do we ourselves come to be speaking of it?

No doubt we deal with it, but we do not state it; we have neither knowledge nor intellection of it.

But in what sense do we even deal with it when we have no hold upon it?

We do not, it is true, grasp it by knowledge, but that does not mean that we are utterly void of it; we hold it not so as to state it, but so as to be able to speak about it. And we can and do state what it is not, while we are silent as to what it is: we are, in fact, speaking of it in the light of its sequels; unable to state it, we may still possess it.

Those divinely possessed and inspired have at least the knowledge that they hold some greater thing within them though they cannot tell what it is; from the movements that stir them and the utterances that come from them they perceive the power, not themselves, that moves them: in the same way, it must be, we stand towards the Supreme when we hold the Intellectual-Principle pure; we know the divine Mind within, that which gives Being and all else of that order: but we know, too, that other, know that it is none of these, but a nobler principle than any-thing we know as Being; fuller and greater; above reason, mind and feeling; conferring these powers, not to be confounded with them.

15. Conferring — but how? As itself possessing them or not? How can it convey what it does not possess, and yet if it does possess how is it simplex? And if, again, it does not, how is it the source of the manifold?

A single, unmanifold emanation we may very well allow — how even that can come from a pure unity may be a problem, but we may always explain it on the analogy of the irradiation from a luminary — but a multitudinous production raises question.

The explanation is that what comes from the Supreme cannot be identical with it and assuredly cannot be better than it — what could be better than The One or the utterly transcendent? The emanation, then, must be less good, that is to say, less self-sufficing: now what must that be which is less self-sufficing than The One? Obviously the Not-One, that is to say, multiplicity, but a multiplicity striving towards unity; that is to say, a One-that-is-many.

All that is not One is conserved by virtue of the One, and from the One derives its characteristic nature: if it had not attained such unity as is consistent with being made up of multiplicity we could not affirm its existence: if we are able to affirm the nature of single things, this is in virtue of the unity, the identity even, which each of them possesses. But the all-transcendent, utterly void of multiplicity, has no mere unity of participation but is unity’s self, independent of all else, as being that from which, by whatever means, all the rest take their degree of unity in their standing, near or far, towards it.

In virtue of the unity manifested in its variety it exhibits, side by side, both an all-embracing identity and the existence of the secondary: all the variety lies in the midst of a sameness, and identity cannot be separated from diversity since all stands as one; each item in that content, by the fact of participating in life, is a One-many: for the item could not make itself manifest as a One-and-all.

Only the Transcendent can be that; it is the great beginning, and the beginning must be a really existent One, wholly and truly One, while its sequent, poured down in some way from the One, is all, a total which has participation in unity and whose every member is similarly all and one.

What then is the All?

The total of which the Transcendent is the Source.

But in what way is it that source? In the sense, perhaps, of sustaining things as bestower of the unity of each single item?

That too; but also as having established them in being.

But how? As having, perhaps, contained them previously?

We have indicated that, thus, the First would be a manifold.

May we think, perhaps, that the First contained the universe as an indistinct total whose items are elaborated to distinct existence within the Second by the Reason-Principle there? That Second is certainly an Activity; the Transcendent would contain only the potentiality of the universe to come.

But the nature of this contained potentiality would have to be explained: it cannot be that of Matter, a receptivity, for thus the Source becomes passive — the very negation of production.

How then does it produce what it does not contain? Certainly not at haphazard and certainly not by selection. How then?

We have observed that anything that may spring from the One must be different from it. Differing, it is not One, since then it would be the Source. If unity has given place to duality, from that moment there is multiplicity; for here is variety side by side with identity, and this imports quality and all the rest.

We may take it as proved that the emanation of the Transcendent must be a Not-One something other than pure unity, but that it is a multiplicity, and especially that it is such a multiplicity as is exhibited in the sequent universe, this is a statement worthy of deliberation: some further enquiry must be made, also, as to the necessity of any sequel to the First.

16. We have, of course, already seen that a secondary must follow upon the First, and that this is a power immeasurably fruitful; and we indicated that this truth is confirmed by the entire order of things since there is nothing, not even in the lowest ranks, void of the power of generating. We have now to add that, since things engendered tend downwards and not upwards and, especially, move towards multiplicity, the first principle of all must be less a manifold than any.

That which engenders the world of sense cannot itself be a sense-world; it must be the Intellect and the Intellectual world; similarly, the prior which engenders the Intellectual-Principle and the Intellectual world cannot be either, but must be something of less multiplicity. The manifold does not rise from the manifold: the intellectual multiplicity has its source in what is not manifold; by the mere fact of being manifold, the thing is not the first principle: we must look to something earlier.

All must be grouped under a unity which, as standing outside of all multiplicity and outside of any ordinary simplicity, is the veritably and essentially simplex.

Still, how can a Reason-Principle [the Intellectual], characteristically a manifold, a total, derive from what is obviously no Reason-Principle?

But how, failing such origin in the simplex, could we escape [what cannot be accepted] the derivation of a Reason-Principle from a Reason-Principle?

And how does the secondarily good [the imaged Good] derive from The Good, the Absolute? What does it hold from the Absolute Good to entitle it to the name?

Similarity to the prior is not enough, it does not help towards goodness; we demand similarity only to an actually existent Good: the goodness must depend upon derivation from a Prior of such a nature that the similarity is desirable because that Prior is good, just as the similarity would be undesirable if the Prior were not good.

Does the similarity with the Prior consist, then, in a voluntary resting upon it?

It is rather that, finding its condition satisfying, it seeks nothing: the similarity depends upon the all-sufficiency of what it possesses; its existence is agreeable because all is present to it, and present in such a way as not to be even different from it [Intellectual-Principle is Being].

All life belongs to it, life brilliant and perfect; thus all in it is at once life-principle and Intellectual-Principle, nothing in it aloof from either life or intellect: it is therefore self-sufficing and seeks nothing: and if it seeks nothing this is because it has in itself what, lacking, it must seek. It has, therefore, its Good within itself, either by being of that order — in what we have called its life and intellect — or in some other quality or character going to produce these.

If this [secondary principle] were The Good [The Absolute], nothing could transcend these things, life and intellect: but, given the existence of something higher, this Intellectual-Principle must possess a life directed towards that Transcendent, dependent upon it, deriving its being from it, living towards it as towards its source. The First, then, must transcend this principle of life and intellect which directs thither both the life in itself, a copy of the Reality of the First, and the intellect in itself which is again a copy, though of what original there we cannot know.

17. But what can it be which is loftier than that existence — a life compact of wisdom, untouched by struggle and error, or than this Intellect which holds the Universe with all there is of life and intellect?

If we answer “The Making Principle,” there comes the question, “making by what virtue?” and unless we can indicate something higher there than in the made, our reasoning has made no advance: we rest where we were.

We must go higher — if it were only for the reason that the maker of all must have a self-sufficing existence outside of all things — since all the rest is patently indigent — and that everything has participated in The One and, as drawing on unity, is itself not unity.

What then is this in which each particular entity participates, the author of being to the universe and to each item of the total?

Since it is the author of all that exists, and since the multiplicity in each thing is converted into a self-sufficing existence by this presence of The One, so that even the particular itself becomes self-sufficing, then clearly this principle, author at once of Being and of self-sufficingness, is not itself a Being but is above Being and above even self-sufficing.

May we stop, content, with that? No: the Soul is yet, and even more, in pain. Is she ripe, perhaps, to bring forth, now that in her pangs she has come so close to what she seeks? No: we must call upon yet another spell if anywhere the assuagement is to be found. Perhaps in what has already been uttered, there lies the charm if only we tell it over often? No: we need a new, a further, incantation. All our effort may well skim over every truth and through all the verities in which we have part, and yet the reality escape us when we hope to affirm, to understand: for the understanding, in order to its affirmation must possess itself of item after item; only so does it traverse all the field: but how can there be any such peregrination of that in which there is no variety?

All the need is met by a contact purely intellective. At the moment of touch there is no power whatever to make any affirmation; there is no leisure; reasoning upon the vision is for afterwards. We may know we have had the vision when the Soul has suddenly taken light. This light is from the Supreme and is the Supreme; we may believe in the Presence when, like that other God on the call of a certain man, He comes bringing light: the light is the proof of the advent. Thus, the Soul unlit remains without that vision; lit, it possesses what it sought. And this is the true end set before the Soul, to take that light, to see the Supreme by the Supreme and not by the light of any other principle — to see the Supreme which is also the means to the vision; for that which illumines the Soul is that which it is to see just as it is by the sun’s own light that we see the sun.

But how is this to be accomplished?

Cut away everything.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/p/plotinus/p72e/part5.3.html

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