The Six Enneads, by Plotinus

Seventh Tractate.

Is There an Ideal Archetype of Particular Beings?

1. We have to examine the question whether there exists an ideal archetype of individuals, in other words whether I and every other human being go back to the Intellectual, every [living] thing having origin and principle There.

If Socrates, Socrates’ soul, is external then the Authentic Socrates — to adapt the term — must be There; that is to say, the individual soul has an existence in the Supreme as well as in this world. If there is no such permanent endurance and what was Socrates may with change of time become another soul and be Pythagoras or someone else — then the individual Socrates has not that existence in the Divine.

But if the Soul of the individual contains the Reason-Principles of all that it traverses, once more all men have their [archetypic] existence There: and it is our doctrine that every soul contains all the Reason-Principles that exist in the Kosmos: since then the Kosmos contains the Reason-Principles not merely of man, but also of all individual living things, so must the Soul. Its content of Reason-Principles, then, must be limitless, unless there be a periodical renovation bounding the boundlessness by the return of a former series.

But if [in virtue of this periodic return] each archetype may be reproduced by numerous existents, what need is there that there be distinct Reason-Principles and archetypes for each existent in any one period? Might not one [archetypal] man suffice for all, and similarly a limited number of souls produce a limitless number of men?

No: one Reason-Principle cannot account for distinct and differing individuals: one human being does not suffice as the exemplar for many distinct each from the other not merely in material constituents but by innumerable variations of ideal type: this is no question of various pictures or images reproducing an original Socrates; the beings produced differ so greatly as to demand distinct Reason-Principles. The entire soul-period conveys with it all the requisite Reason-Principles, and so too the same existents appear once more under their action.

There is no need to baulk at this limitlessness in the Intellectual; it is an infinitude having nothing to do with number or part; what we may think of it as its outgoing is no other than its characteristic Act.

2. But individuals are brought into being by the union of the Reason-Principles of the parents, male and female: this seems to do away with a definite Reason-Principle for each of the offspring: one of the parents — the male let us say — is the source; and the offspring is determined not by Reason-Principles differing from child to child but by one only, the father’s or that of the father’s father.

No: a distinct Reason-Principle may be the determinant for the child since the parent contains all: they would become effective at different times.

And so of the differences among children of the same parents: it is a matter of varying dominance: either the offspring — whether it so appears or not — has been mainly determined by, now, the male, now, the female or, while each principle has given itself entire and lies there within, yet it effectively moulds one portion of the bodily substance rather than another.

And how [by the theory of a divine archetype of each individual] are the differences caused by place to be explained?

Is the differentiating element to be found in the varying resistance of the material of the body?

No: if this were so, all men with the exception of one only would be untrue to nature.

Difference everywhere is a good, and so there must be differing archetypes, though only to evil could be attribute any power in Matter to thwart nature by overmastering the perfect Reason-Principles, hidden but given, all.

Still, admitting the diversity of the Reason-principles, why need there by as many as there are men born in each Period, once it is granted that different beings may take external manifestation under the presence of the same principles?

Under the presence of all; agreed: but with the dominance of the very same? That is still open to question.

May we not take it that there may be identical reproduction from one Period to another but not in the same Period?

3. In the case of twin birth among human beings how can we make out the Reason-Principles to be different; and still more when we turn to the animals and especially those with litters?

Where the young are precisely alike, there is one Reason-Principle.

But this would mean that after all there are not as many Reason Principles as separate beings?

As many as there are of differing beings, differing by something more than a mere failure in complete reproduction of their Idea.

And why may not this [sharing of archetype] occur also in beings untouched by differentiation, if indeed there be any such?

A craftsman even in constructing an object identical with a model must envisage that identity in a mental differentiation enabling him to make a second thing by bringing in some difference side by side with the identity: similarly in nature, where the thing comes about not by reasoning but in sole virtue of Reason-Principles, that differentiation must be included in the archetypal idea, though it is not in our power to perceive the difference.

The consideration of Quantity brings the same result:

If production is undetermined in regard to Quantity, each thing has its distinct Reason-Principle: if there is a measured system the Quantity has been determined by the unrolling and unfolding of the Reason-Principles of all the existences.

Thus when the universe has reached its term, there will be a fresh beginning, since the entire Quantity which the Kosmos is to exhibit, every item that is to emerge in its course, all is laid up from the first in the Being that contains the Reason-Principles.

Are we, then, looking to the brute realm, to hold that there are as many Reason-Principles as distinct creatures born in a litter?

Why not? There is nothing alarming about such limitlessness in generative forces and in Reason-Principles, when Soul is there to sustain all.

As in Soul [principle of Life] so in Divine Mind [principle of Idea] there is this infinitude of recurring generative powers; the Beings there are unfailing.

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