The Six Enneads, by Plotinus

Sixth Tractate.

That the Principle Transcending Being has no Intellectual Act. What Being has Intellection Primally and what Being has it Secondarily.

1. There is a principle having intellection of the external and another having self-intellection and thus further removed from duality.

Even the first mentioned is not without an effort towards the pure unity of which it is not so capable: it does actually contain its object, though as something other than itself.

In the self-intellective, there is not even this distinction of being: self-conversing, the subject is its own object, and thus takes the double form while remaining essentially a unity. The intellection is the more profound for this internal possession of the object.

This principle is the primally intellective since there can be no intellection without duality in unity. If there is no unity, perceiving principle and perceived object will be different, and the intellection, therefore, not primal: a principle concerned with something external cannot be the primally intellective since it does not possess the object as integrally its own or as itself; if it does possess the object as itself — the condition of true intellection — the two are one. Thus [in order to primal intellection] there must be a unity in duality, while a pure unity with no counterbalancing duality can have no object for its intellection and ceases to be intellective: in other words the primally intellective must be at once simplex and something else.

But the surest way of realizing that its nature demands this combination of unity and duality is to proceed upwards from the Soul, where the distinction can be made more dearly since the duality is exhibited more obviously.

We can imagine the Soul as a double light, a lesser corresponding to the soul proper, a purer representing its intellective phase; if now we suppose this intellective light equal to the light which is to be its object, we no longer distinguish between them; the two are recognised as one: we know, indeed, that there are two, but as we see them they have become one: this gives us the relation between the intellective subject and the object of intellection [in the duality and unity required by that primal intellection]: in our thought we have made the two into one; but on the other hand the one thing has become two, making itself into a duality at the moment of intellection, or, to be more exact, being dual by the fact of intellection and single by the fact that its intellectual object is itself.

2. Thus there is the primally intellective and there is that in which intellection has taken another mode; but this indicates that what transcends the primarily intellective has no intellection; for, to have intellection, it must become an Intellectual-Principle, and, if it is to become that, it must possess an intellectual object and, as primarily intellective, it must possess that intellectual object as something within itself.

But it is not inevitable that every intellectual object should both possess the intellective principle in itself and exercise intellection: at that, it would be not merely object but subject as well and, besides, being thus dual, could not be primal: further, the intellectual principle that is to possess the intellectual object could not cohere unless there existed an essence purely intellectual, something which, while standing as intellectual object to the intellectual principle, is in its own essence neither an agent nor an object of intellection. The intellectual object points to something beyond itself [to a percipient]; and the intellectual agent has its intellection in vain unless by seizing and holding an object — since, failing that, it can have no intellection but is consummated only when it possesses itself of its natural term.

There must have been something standing consummate independently of any intellectual act, something perfect in its own essence: thus that in which this completion is inherent must exist before intellection; in other words it has no need of intellection, having been always self-sufficing: this, then, will have no intellectual act.

Thus we arrive at: a principle having no intellection, a principle having intellection primarily, a principle having it secondarily.

It may be added that, supposing The First to be intellective, it thereby possesses something [some object, some attribute]: at once it ceases to be a first; it is a secondary, and not even a unity; it is a many; it is all of which it takes intellectual possession; even though its intellection fell solely upon its own content, it must still be a manifold.

3. We may be told that nothing prevents an identity being thus multiple. But there must be a unity underlying the aggregate: a manifold is impossible without a unity for its source or ground, or at least, failing some unity, related or unrelated. This unity must be numbered as first before all and can be apprehended only as solitary and self-existent.

When we recognize it, resident among the mass of things, our business is to see it for what it is — present to the items but essentially distinguished from them — and, while not denying it there, to seek this underly of all no longer as it appears in those other things but as it stands in its pure identity by itself. The identity resident in the rest of things is no doubt close to authentic identity but cannot be it; and, if the identity of unity is to be displayed beyond itself, it must also exist within itself alone.

It may be suggested that its existence takes substantial form only by its being resident among outside things: but, at this, it is itself no longer simplex nor could any coherence of manifolds occur. On the one hand things could take substantial existence only if they were in their own virtue simplex. On the other hand, failing a simplex, the aggregate of multiples is itself impossible: for the simplex individual thing could not exist if there were no simplex unity independent of the individual, [a principle of identity] and, not existing, much less could it enter into composition with any other such: it becomes impossible then for the compound universe, the aggregate of all, to exist; it would be the coming together of things that are not, things not merely lacking an identity of their own but utterly non-existent.

Once there is any manifold, there must be a precedent unity: since any intellection implies multiplicity in the intellective subject, the non-multiple must be without intellection; that non-multiple will be the First: intellection and the Intellectual-Principle must be characteristic of beings coming later.

4. Another consideration is that if The Good [and First] is simplex and without need, it can neither need the intellective act nor possess what it does not need: it will therefore not have intellection. (Interpolation or corruption: It is without intellection because, also, it contains no duality.)

Again; an Intellectual-Principle is distinct from The Good and takes a certain goodness only by its intellection of The Good.

Yet again: In any dual object there is the unity [the principle of identity] side by side with the rest of the thing; an associated member cannot be the unity of the two and there must be a self-standing unity [within the duality] before this unity of members can exist: by the same reasoning there must be also the supreme unity entering into no association whatever, something which is unity-simplex by its very being, utterly devoid of all that belongs to the thing capable of association.

How could anything be present in anything else unless in virtue of a source existing independently of association? The simplex [or absolute] requires no derivation; but any manifold, or any dual, must be dependent.

We may use the figure of, first, light; then, following it, the sun; as a third, the orb of the moon taking its light from the sun: Soul carries the Intellectual-Principle as something imparted and lending the light which makes it essentially intellective; Intellectual-Principle carries the light as its own though it is not purely the light but is the being into whose very essence the light has been received; highest is That which, giving forth the light to its sequent, is no other than the pure light itself by whose power the Intellectual-Principle takes character.

How can this highest have need of any other? It is not to be identified with any of the things that enter into association; the self-standing is of a very different order.

5. And again: the multiple must be always seeking its identity, desiring self-accord and self-awareness: but what scope is there within what is an absolute unity in which to move towards its identity or at what term may it hope for self-knowing? It holds its identity in its very essence and is above consciousness and all intellective act. Intellection is not a primal either in the fact of being or in the value of being; it is secondary and derived: for there exists The Good; and this moves towards itself while its sequent is moved and by that movement has its characteristic vision. The intellective act may be defined as a movement towards The Good in some being that aspires towards it; the effort produces the fact; the two are coincident; to see is to have desired to see: hence again the Authentic Good has no need of intellection since itself and nothing else is its good.

The intellective act is a movement towards the unmoved Good: thus the self-intellection in all save the Absolute Good is the working of the imaged Good within them: the intellectual principle recognises the likeness, sees itself as a good to itself, an object of attraction: it grasps at that manifestation of The Good and, in holding that, holds self-vision: if the state of goodness is constant, it remains constantly self-attractive and self-intellective. The self-intellection is not deliberate: it sees itself as an incident in its contemplation of The Good; for it sees itself in virtue of its Act; and, in all that exists, the Act is towards The Good.

6. If this reasoning is valid, The Good has no scope whatever for intellection which demands something attractive from outside. The Good, then, is without Act. What Act indeed, could be vested in Activity’s self? No activity has yet again an activity; and whatever we may add to such Activities as depend from something else, at least we must leave the first Activity of them all, that from which all depend, as an uncontaminated identity, one to which no such addition can be made.

That primal Activity, then, is not an intellection, for there is nothing upon which it could Exercise intellection since it is The First; besides, intellection itself does not exercise the intellective act; this belongs to some principle in which intellection is vested. There is, we repeat, duality in any thinking being; and the First is wholly above the dual.

But all this may be made more evident by a clearer recognition of the twofold principle at work wherever there is intellection:

When we affirm the reality of the Real Beings and their individual identity of being and declare that these Real Beings exist in the Intellectual Realm, we do not mean merely that they remain unchangeably self-identical by their very essence, as contrasted with the fluidity and instability of the sense-realm; the sense-realm itself may contain the enduring. No; we mean rather that these principles possess, as by their own virtue, the consummate fulness of being. The Essence described as the primally existent cannot be a shadow cast by Being, but must possess Being entire; and Being is entire when it holds the form and idea of intellection and of life. In a Being, then, the existence, the intellection, the life are present as an aggregate. When a thing is a Being, it is also an Intellectual-Principle, when it is an Intellectual-Principle it is a Being; intellection and Being are co-existents. Therefore intellection is a multiple not a unitary and that which does not belong to this order can have no Intellection. And if we turn to the partial and particular, there is the Intellectual form of man, and there is man, there is the Intellectual form of horse and there is horse, the Intellectual form of Justice, and Justice.

Thus all is dual: the unit is a duality and yet again the dual reverts to unity.

That, however, which stands outside all this category can be neither an individual unity nor an aggregate of all the duals or in any way a duality. How the duals rose from The One is treated elsewhere.

What stands above Being stands above intellection: it is no weakness in it not to know itself, since as pure unity it contains nothing which it needs to explore. But it need not even spend any knowing upon things outside itself: this which was always the Good of all gives them something greater and better than its knowledge of them in giving them in their own identity to cling, in whatever measure be possible, to a principle thus lofty.

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