The Six Enneads, by Plotinus

Fourth Tractate.

On the Integral Omnipresence of the Authentic Existent (1).

1. How are we to explain the omnipresence of the soul? Does it depend upon the definite magnitude of the material universe coupled with some native tendency in soul to distribute itself over material mass, or is it a characteristic of soul apart from body?

In the latter case, soul will not appear just where body may bring it; body will meet soul awaiting it everywhere; wheresoever body finds place, there soul lay before ever body was; the entire material mass of the universe has been set into an existent soul.

But if soul spread thus wide before material extension existed, then as covering all space it would seem to be of itself a thing of magnitude, and in what mode could it exist in the All before the All was in being, before there was any All? And who can accept a soul described as partless and massless and yet, for all that absence of extension, extending over a universe? We may perhaps be told that, though extended over the corporeal, it does not itself become so: but thus to give it magnitude as an accidental attribute leaves the problem still unsolved: precisely the same question must in all reason arise: How can the soul take magnitude even in the move of accident?

We cannot think of soul being diffused as a quality is, say sweetness or colour, for while these are actual states of the masses affected so that they show that quality at every point, none of them has an independent existence; they are attributes of body and known only as in body; such quality is necessarily of a definite extension. Further, the colour at any point is independent of that at any other; no doubt the Form, White, is the same all over, but there is not arithmetical identity; in soul there is; it is one soul in foot and in hand, as the facts of perception show. And yet in the case of qualities the one is observably distributed part for part; in the soul the identity is undistributed; what we sometimes call distribution is simply omnipresence.

Obviously, we must take hold of the question from the very beginning in the hope of finding some clear and convincing theory as to how soul, immaterial and without magnitude, can be thus broad-spread, whether before material masses exist or as enveloping them. Of course, should it appear that this omnipresence may occur apart from material things, there is no difficulty in accepting its occurrence within the material.

2. Side by side exist the Authentic All and its counterpart, the visible universe. The Authentic is contained in nothing, since nothing existed before it; of necessity anything coming after it must, as a first condition of existence, be contained by this All, especially since it depends upon the Authentic and without that could have neither stability nor movement.

We may be reminded that the universe cannot be contained in the Authentic as in a place, where place would mean the boundaries of some surrounding extension considered as an envelope, or some space formerly a part of the Void and still remaining unoccupied even after the emergence of the universe, that it can only support itself, as it were, upon the Authentic and rest in the embrace of its omnipresence; but this objection is merely verbal and will disappear if our meaning is grasped; we mention it for another purpose; it goes to enforce our real assertion that the Authentic All, at once primal and veritable, needs no place and is in no way contained. The All, as being an integral, cannot fall short of itself; it must ever have fulfilled its own totality, ever reached to its own equivalence; as far as the sum of entities extends, there this is; for this is the All.

Inevitably, also, anything other than this All that may be stationed therein must have part in the All, merge into it, and hold by its strength; it is not that the thing detaches a portion of the All but that within itself it finds the All which has entered into it while still unbrokenly self-abiding, since Being cannot lodge in non-Being, but, if anything, non-Being within Being.

Being, then, is present to all Being; an identity cannot tear itself asunder; the omnipresence asserted of it must be presence within the realm of Being; that is, it must be a self-presence. And it is in no way strange that the omnipresence should be at once self-abiding and universal; this is merely saying omnipresence within a unity.

It is our way to limit Being to the sense-known and therefore to think of omnipresence in terms of the concrete; in our overestimate of the sensible, we question how that other Nature can reach over such vastness; but our great is small, and this, small to us, is great; it reaches integrally to every point of our universe — or, better, our universe, moving from every side and in all its members towards this, meets it everywhere as the omnipresent All ever stretching beyond.

The universe in all its reach can attain nothing further — that would mean overpassing the total of Being — and therefore is content to circle about it; not able to encompass or even to fill the All, it is content to accept place and subordination, for thus it preserves itself in neighbouring the higher present to it — present and yet absent; self-holding, whatever may seek its presence.

Wherever the body of the universe may touch, there it finds this All; it strives for no further advance, willing to revolve in that one circle, since to it that is the All and in that movement its every part embraces the All.

If that higher were itself in place there would be the need of seeking that precise place by a certain right path; part of seeker must touch part of sought, and there would be far and near. But since there is no far and near there must be, if presence at all, presence entire. And presence there indubitably is; this highest is present to every being of those that, free of far and near, are of power to receive.

3. But are we to think of this Authentic Being as, itself, present, or does it remain detached, omnipresent in the sense only that powers from it enter everywhere?

Under the theory of presence by powers, souls are described as rays; the source remains self-locked and these are flung forth to impinge upon particular living things.

Now, in beings whose unity does not reproduce the entire nature of that principle, any presence is presence of an emanant power: even this, however, does not mean that the principle is less than integrally present; it is not sundered from the power which it has uttered; all is offered, but the recipient is able to take only so much. But in Beings in which the plenitude of these powers is manifested, there clearly the Authentic itself is present, though still as remaining distinct; it is distinct in that, becoming the informing principle of some definite thing, it would abdicate from its standing as the total and from its uttermost self-abiding and would belong, in some mode of accident, to another thing as well. Still it is not the property of what may seek to join with it; it chooses where it will and enters as the participant’s power may allow, but it does not become a chattel; it remains the quested and so in another sense never passes over. There is nothing disquieting in omnipresence after this mode where there is no appropriation: in the same accidental way, we may reasonably put it, soul concurs with body, but it is soul self-holding, not inbound with Matter, free even of the body which it has illuminated through and through.

Nor does the placelessness of Being make it surprising that it be present universally to things of place; on the contrary, the wonder would be — the more than wonder, the impossibility — if from a place of its own it were present to other things in their place, or if having place it were present at all — and, especially present, as we assert, integrally.

But set it outside of place, and reason tells us that it will be present entire where it is present at all and that, present to the total, it must be present in the same completeness to every several unity; otherwise something of it is here and something there, and at once it is fragmentary, it is body.

How can we so dispart Being? We cannot break Life into parts; if the total was Life, the fragment is not. But we do not thus sunder Intelligence, one intelligence in this man, another in that? No; such a fragment would not be Intelligence. But the Being of the individual? Once more, if the total thing is Being, then a fragment could not be. Are we told that in a body, a total of parts, every member is also a body? But here we are dividing not body but a particular quantity of body, each of those divisions being described as body in virtue of possessing the Form or Idea that constitutes body; and this Idea has no magnitude, is incapable of magnitude.

4. But how explain beings by the side of Being, and the variety of intelligences and of souls, when Being has the unity of omnipresent identity and not merely that of a species, and when intellect and soul are likewise numerically one? We certainly distinguish between the soul of the All and the particular souls.

This seems to conflict with our view which, moreover, for all its logical necessity, scarcely carries conviction against our mental reluctance to the notion of unity identically omnipresent. It would appear more plausible to suppose a partition of the All-the original remaining undiminished — or, in a more legitimate phrase, an engendering from the All.

Thus the Authentic would be left self-gathered, while what we think of as the parts — the separate souls — would come into being to produce the multiple total of the universe.

But if the Authentic Being is to be kept unattached in order to remove the difficulty of integral omnipresence, the same considerations must apply equally to the souls; we would have to admit that they cannot be integrally omnipresent in the bodies they are described as occupying; either, soul must be distributed, part to body’s part, or it is lodged entire at some one point in the body giving forth some of its powers to the other points; and these very powers, again, present the same difficulty.

A further objection is that some one spot in the body will hold the soul, the others no more than a power from it.

Still, how account for the many souls, many intelligences, the beings by the side of the Being?

No doubt the beings proceed from the Priors in the mode only of numerical distinction and not as concrete masses, but the difficulty remains as to how they come to constitute the plenitude of the material universe.

This explanation by progression does not clear the problem.

We are agreed that diversity within the Authentic depends not upon spatial separation but sheerly upon differentiation; all Being, despite this plurality, is a unity still; “Being neighbours Being”; all holds together; and thus the Intellectual-Principle [which is Being and the Beings] remains an integral, multiple by differentiation, not by spatial distinction.

Soul too? Souls too. That principle distributed over material masses we hold to be in its own nature incapable of distribution; the magnitude belongs to the masses; when this soul-principle enters into them — or rather they into it — it is thought of as distributable only because, within the discrimination of the corporeal, the animating force is to be recognised at any and every point. For soul is not articulated, section of soul to section of body; there is integral omnipresence manifesting the unity of that principle, its veritable partlessness.

Now as in soul unity does not debar variety, so with Being and the Beings; in that order multiplicity does not conflict with unity. Multiplicity. This is not due to the need of flooding the universe with life; nor is the extension of the corporeal the cause of the multiplicity of souls; before body existed, soul was one and many; the many souls fore-existed in the All not potentially but each effectively; that one collective soul is no bar to the variety; the variety does not abrogate the unity; the souls are apart without partition, present each to all as never having been set in opposition; they are no more hedged off by boundaries than are the multiple items of knowledge in one mind; the one soul so exists as to include all souls; the nature of such a principle must be utterly free of boundary.

5. Herein lies its greatness, not in mass; mass is limited and may be whittled down to nothingness; in that order no such paring off is possible — nor, if it were, could there be any falling short. Where limitation is unthinkable, what fear can there be of absence at any point? Nowhere can that principle fail which is the unfailing, the everlasting, the undwindling; suppose it in flux and it must at some time flow to its end; since it is not in flux — and, besides [as the All], it has nowhere to flow to — it lies spread over the universe; in fact it is the universe, too great to be held by body, giving, therefore, to the material universe but little of itself, the little which that participant can take.

We may not make this principle the lesser, or if in the sense of mass we do, we must not begin to mistrust the power of that less to stretch to the greater. Of course, we have in fact no right to affirm it less or to measure the thing of magnitude against that which has none; as well talk of a doctor’s skill being smaller than his body. This greatness is not to be thought of in terms of quantity; the greater and less of body have nothing to do with soul.

The nature of the greatness of soul is indicated by the fact that as the body grows, the larger mass is held by the same soul that sufficed to the smaller; it would be in many ways absurd to suppose a corresponding enlargement in the soul.

6. But why does not one same soul enter more than one body?

Because any second body must approach, if it might; but the first has approached and received and keeps.

Are we to think that this second body, in keeping its soul with a like care, is keeping the same soul as the first?

Why not: what difference is there? Merely some additions [from the experiences of life, none in the soul itself].

We ask further why one soul in foot and hand and not one soul in the distinct members of the universe.

Sensations no doubt differ from soul to soul but only as do the conditions and experiences; this is difference not in the judging principle but in the matters coming to judgement; the judge is one and the same soul pronouncing upon various events, and these not its own but belonging to a particular body; it is only as a man pronounces simultaneously upon a pleasant sensation in his finger and a pain in his head.

But why is not the soul in one man aware, then, of the judgement passed by another?

Because it is a judgement made, not a state set up; besides, the soul that has passed the judgement does not pronounce but simply judges: similarly a man’s sight does not report to his hearing, though both have passed judgement; it is the reason above both that reports, and this is a principle distinct from either. Often, as it happens, reason does become aware of a verdict formed in another reason and takes to itself an alien experience: but this has been dealt with elsewhere.

7. Let us consider once more how it is possible for an identity to extend over a universe. This comes to the question how each variously placed entity in the multiplicity of the sense order can have its share in one identical Principle.

The solution is in the reasons given for refusing to distribute that principle; we are not to parcel it out among the entities of the multiple; on the contrary, we bring the distributed multiples to the unity. The unity has not gone forth to them: from their dispersion we are led to think of it as broken up to meet them, but this is to distribute the controller and container equally over the material handled.

A hand may very well control an entire mass, a long plank, or anything of that sort; the control is effective throughout and yet is not distributed, unit for unit, over the object of control: the power is felt to reach over the whole area, though the hand is only hand-long, not taking the extension of the mass it wields; lengthen the object and, provided that the total is within the strength, the power handles the new load with no need of distributing itself over the increased area. Now let us eliminate the corporeal mass of the hand, retaining the power it exerted: is not that power, the impartible, present integrally over the entire area of control?

Or imagine a small luminous mass serving as centre to a transparent sphere, so that the light from within shows upon the entire outer surface, otherwise unlit: we surely agree that the inner core of light, intact and immobile, reaches over the entire outer extension; the single light of that small centre illuminates the whole field. The diffused light is not due to any bodily magnitude of that central point which illuminates not as body but as body lit, that is by another kind of power than corporeal quality: let us then abstract the corporeal mass, retaining the light as power: we can no longer speak of the light in any particular spot; it is equally diffused within and throughout the entire sphere. We can no longer even name the spot it occupied so as to say whence it came or how it is present; we can but seek and wonder as the search shows us the light simultaneously present at each and every point in the sphere. So with the sunlight: looking to the corporeal mass you are able to name the source of the light shining through all the air, but what you see is one identical light in integral omnipresence. Consider too the refraction of light by which it is thrown away from the line of incidence; yet, direct or refracted, it is one and the same light. And supposing, as before, that the sun were simply an unembodied illuminant, the light would no longer be fixed to any one definite spot: having no starting point, no centre of origin, it would be an integral unity omnipresent.

8. The light of our world can be allocated because it springs from a corporeal mass of known position, but conceive an immaterial entity, independent of body as being of earlier nature than all body, a nature firmly self-based or, better, without need of base: such a principle, incorporeal, autonomous, having no source for its rising, coming from no place, attached to no material mass, this cannot be allotted part here and part there: that would be to give it both a previous position and a present attachment. Finally, anything participating in such a principle can participate only as entirety with entirety; there can be no allotment and no partition.

A principle attached to body might be exposed, at least by way of accident, to such partition and so be definable as passive and partible in view of its close relationship with the body of which it is so to speak a state or a Form; but that which is not inbound with body, which on the contrary body must seek, will of necessity go utterly free of every bodily modification and especially of the very possibility of partition which is entirely a phenomenon of body, belonging to its very essence. As partibility goes with body, so impartibility with the bodiless: what partition is possible where there is no magnitude? If a thing of magnitude participates to any degree in what has no magnitude, it must be by a participation without division; divisibility implies magnitude.

When we affirm unity in multiplicity, we do not mean that the unity has become the multiples; we link the variety in the multiples with the unity which we discern, undivided, in them; and the unity must be understood as for ever distinct from them, from separate item and from total; that unity remains true to itself, remains itself, and so long as it remains itself cannot fail within its own scope [and therefore does reach over the multiple], yet it is not to be thought of as coextensive with the material universe or with any member of the All; utterly outside of the quantitative, it cannot be coextensive with anything.

Extension is of body; what is not of body, but of the opposed order, must be kept free of extension; but where there is no extension there is no spatial distinction, nothing of the here and there which would end its freedom of presence. Since, then, partition goes with place — each part occupying a place of its own — how can the placeless be parted? The unity must remain self-concentrated, immune from part, however much the multiple aspire or attain to contact with it. This means that any movement towards it is movement towards its entirety, and any participation attained is participation in its entirety. Its participants, then, link with it as with something unparticipated, something never appropriated: thus only can it remain intact within itself and within the multiples in which it is manifested. And if it did not remain thus intact, it would cease to be itself; any participation, then, would not be in the object of quest but in something never quested.

9. If in such a partition of the unity, that which entered into each participant were an entire — always identical with the first — then, in the progressive severance, the firsts would become numerous, each particular becoming a first: and then what prevents these many firsts from reconstituting the collective unity? Certainly not the bodies they have entered, for those firsts cannot be present in the material masses as their Forms if they are to remain identical with the First from which they come. On the other hand, taking the part conceived as present in the multiple to be simply a power [emanating from the First], at once such a part ceases to be the unity; we have then to ask how these powers come to be cut off, to have abandoned their origin; they certainly have not moved away with no purpose in their movement.

Again, are those powers, entering the universe of sense, still within the First or not?

If they are not, we have the absurdity that the First has been lessened, disempowered, stripped of power originally possessed. Besides, how could powers thus cut off subsist apart from the foundations of their being? Suppose these powers to be at once within the First and elsewhere; then the universe of sense contains either the entire powers or parts of them; if parts of powers, the other parts are There; if entires, then either the powers There are present here also undivided — and this brings us back to an identity omnipresent in integral identity — or they are each an entire which has taken division into a multiplicity of similars so that attached to every essence there is one power only — that particularly appropriated to it — the other powers remaining powers unattached: yet power apart from Being is as impossible as Being apart from power; for There power is Being or something greater than Being.

Or, again, suppose the powers coming Thence are other than their source — lesser, fainter, as a bright light dwindles to a dim — but each attached to its essence as a power must always be: such secondary powers would be perfectly uniform and at once we are forced to admit the omnipresence of the one same power or at the least the presence — as in one and the same body — of some undivided identity integral at every point.

And if this is the case with a particular body, why not with the entire universe?

If we think of the single power as being endlessly divided, it is no longer a power entire; partition means lessening of power; and, with part of power for part of body, the conditions of consciousness cease.

Further, a vestigial cut off from its source disappears — for example, a reflected light — and in general an emanant loses its quality once it is severed from the original which it reproduces: just so the powers derived from that source must vanish if they do not remain attached to it.

This being so, where these powers appear, their source must be present with them; thus, once more, that source must itself be omnipresent as an undivided whole.

10. We may be told that an image need not be thus closely attached to its archetype, that we know images holding in the absence of their archetype and that a warmed object may retain its heat when the fire is withdrawn.

To begin with the image and archetype: If we are reminded of an artist’s picture we observe that here the image was produced by the artist, not by his subject; even in the case of a self-portrait, the picture is no “image of archetype,” since it is not produced by the painter’s body, the original represented: the reproduction is due to the effective laying on of the colours.

Nor is there strictly any such making of image as we see in water or in mirrors or in a shadow; in these cases the original is the cause of the image which, at once, springs from it and cannot exist apart from it. Now, it is in this sense that we are to understand the weaker powers to be images of the Priors. As for the illustration from the fire and the warmed object, the warmth cannot be called an image of the fire unless we think of warmth as containing fire so that the two are separate things. Besides, the fire removed, the warmth does sooner or later disappear, leaving the object cold.

If we are told that these powers fade out similarly, we are left with only one imperishable: the souls, the Intellectual-Principle, become perishable; then since Being [identical with the Intellectual-Principle] becomes transitory, so also must the Beings, its productions. Yet the sun, so long as it holds its station in the universe, will pour the same light upon the same places; to think its light may be lessened is to hold its mass perishable. But it has been abundantly stated that the emanants of the First are not perishable, that the souls, and the Intellectual-Principle with all its content, cannot perish.

11. Still, this integral omnipresence admitted, why do not all things participate in the Intellectual Order in its entirety? Why has it a first participant, a second, and so on?

We can but see that presence is determined by the fitness of the participant so that, while Being is omnipresent to the realm of Being, never falling short of itself, yet only the competent possess themselves of that presence which depends not upon situation but upon adequacy; the transparent object and the opaque answer very differently to the light. These firsts, seconds, thirds, of participance are determined by rank, by power, not by place but by differentiation; and difference is no bar to coexistence, witness soul and Intellectual-Principle: similarly our own knowledge, the trivial next the gravest; one and the same object yields colour to our sight, fragrance to smell, to every sense a particular experience, all presented simultaneously.

But would not this indicate that the Authentic is diverse, multiple?

That diversity is simplex still; that multiple is one; for it is a Reason-Principle, which is to say a unity in variety: all Being is one; the differing being is still included in Being; the differentiation is within Being, obviously not within non-Being. Being is bound up with the unity which is never apart from it; wheresoever Being appears, there appears its unity; and the unity of Being is self-standing, for presence in the sensible does not abrogate independence: things of sense are present to the Intellectual — where this occurs — otherwise than as the Intellectual is present within itself; so, too, body’s presence to soul differs from that of knowledge to soul; one item of knowledge is present in a different way than another; a body’s presence to body is, again, another form of relation.

12. Think of a sound passing through the air and carrying a word; an ear within range catches and comprehends; and the sound and word will strike upon any other ear you may imagine within the intervening void, upon any that attends; from a great distance many eyes look to the one object and all take it fully; all this, because eye and ear exist. In the same way, what is apt for soul will possess itself of soul, while from the one identical presence another will derive something else.

Now the sound was diffused throughout the air not in sections but as one sound, entire at every point of that space. So with sight: if the air carries a shape impressed upon it this is one undivided whole; for, wherever there be an eye, there the shape will be grasped; even to such as reject this particular theory of sight, the facts of vision still stand as an example of participation determined by an identical unity.

The sound is the clearer illustration: the form conveyed is an entirety over all the air space, for unless the spoken word were entire at every point, for every ear to catch the whole alike, the same effect could not be made upon every listener; the sound, evidently, is not strung along the air, section to section. Why, then, need we hesitate to think of soul as a thing not extended in broken contact, part for part, but omnipresent within the range of its presence, indwelling in totality at every point throughout the All?

Entered into such bodies as are apt to it, the soul is like the spoken sound present in the air, before that entry, like the speaker about to speak — though even embodied it remains at once the speaker and the silent.

No doubt these illustrations are imperfect, but they carry a serviceable similitude: the soul belongs to that other Kind, and we must not conceive a part of it embodied and a part intact; it is at once a self-enclosed unity and a principle manifested in diversity.

Further, any newcoming entity achieving soul receives mysteriously that same principle which was equally in the previously ensouled; for it is not in the dispensation that a given part of soul situate at some given point should enter here and there; what is thought of as entering was always a self-enclosed entire and, for all the seeming entry, so remains; no real entry is conceivable. If, then, the soul never entered and yet is now seen to be present — present without waiting upon the participant — clearly it is present, here too, without breach of its self-inclusion. This can mean only that the participant came to soul; it lay outside the veritable reality but advanced towards it and so established itself in the kosmos of life. But this kosmos of life is a self-gathered entire, not divisible into constituent masses but prior to mass; in other words, the participation is of entire in entire. Any newcomer into that kosmos of life will participate in it entire. Admitting, then, that this kosmos of life is present entire in the universe, it must be similarly entire in each several entity; an identity numerically one, it must be an undivided entire, omnipresent.

13. But how account, at this, for its extension over all the heavens and all living beings?

There is no such extension. Sense-perception, by insistence upon which we doubt, tells of Here and There; but reason certifies that the Here and There do not attach to that principle; the extended has participated in that kosmos of life which itself has no extension.

Clearly no participant can participate in itself; self-participation would be merely identity. Body, then, as participant does not participate in body; body it has; its participation must be in what is not body. So too magnitude does not participate in magnitude; it has it: not even in addition of quantity does the initial magnitude participate in magnitude: the two cubits do not themselves become three cubits; what occurs is that an object totalling to a certain quantity now totals to another: for magnitude to participate in magnitude the actual two cubits must themselves become the new three [which cannot occur].

If, then, the divided and quantitatively extended is to participate in another Kind, is to have any sort of participation, it can participate only in something undivided, unextended, wholly outside of quantity. Therefore, that which is to be introduced by the participation must enter as itself an omnipresent indivisible.

This indivisibility must, of course, not be taken in any sense of littleness: littleness would be still divisible, could not cover the extension of the participant and could not maintain integral presence against that expansion. Nor is it the indivisibility of a geometric point: the participant mass is no single point but includes an infinity of points; so that on the theory this principle must be an infinity of points, not a simultaneous entire, and so, again, will fail to cover the participant.

If, then, the participant mass in its entirety is to contain that principle entire, the universe must hold that one soul present at its every point.

14. But, admitting this one soul at every point, how is there a particular soul of the individual and how the good soul and the bad?

The one soul reaches to the individual but nonetheless contains all souls and all intelligences; this, because it is at once a unity and an infinity; it holds all its content as one yet with each item distinct, though not to the point of separation. Except by thus holding all its content as one-life entire, soul entire, all intelligence — it could not be infinite; since the individualities are not fenced off from each other, it remains still one thing. It was to hold life not single but infinite and yet one life, one in the sense not of an aggregate built up but of the retention of the unity in which all rose. Strictly, of course, it is a matter not of the rising of the individuals but of their being eternally what they are; in that order, as there is no beginning, so there is no apportioning except as an interpretation by the recipient. What is of that realm is the ancient and primal; the relation to it of the thing of process must be that of approach and apparent merging with always dependence.

But we ourselves, what are We?

Are we that higher or the participant newcomer, the thing of beginnings in time?

Before we had our becoming Here we existed There, men other than now, some of us gods: we were pure souls, Intelligence inbound with the entire of reality, members of the Intellectual, not fenced off, not cut away, integral to that All. Even now, it is true, we are not put apart; but upon that primal Man there has intruded another, a man seeking to come into being and finding us there, for we were not outside of the universe. This other has wound himself about us, foisting himself upon the Man that each of us was at first. Then it was as if one voice sounded, one word was uttered, and from every side an ear attended and received and there was an effective hearing, possessed through and through of what was present and active upon it: now we have lost that first simplicity; we are become the dual thing, sometimes indeed no more than that later foisting, with the primal nature dormant and in a sense no longer present.

15. But how did this intruder find entrance?

It had a certain aptitude and it grasped at that to which it was apt. In its nature it was capable of soul: but what is unfitted to receive soul entire — present entire but not for it — takes what share it may; such are the members of the animal and vegetal order. Similarly, of a significant sound, some forms of being take sound and significance together, others only the sound, the blank impact.

A living thing comes into existence containing soul, present to it from the Authentic, and by soul is inbound with Reality entire; it possesses also a body; but this body is not a husk having no part in soul, not a thing that earlier lay away in the soulless; the body had its aptitude and by this draws near: now it is not body merely, but living body. By this neighboring it is enhanced with some impress of soul — not in the sense of a portion of soul entering into it, but that it is warmed and lit by soul entire: at once there is the ground of desire, pleasure, pain; the body of the living form that has come to be was certainly no unrelated thing.

The soul, sprung from the divine, lay self-enclosed at peace, true to its own quality; but its neighbour, in uproar through weakness, instable of its own nature and beaten upon from without, cries, at first to itself and afterwards upon the living total, spreading the disorder at large. Thus, at an assembly the Elders may sit in tranquil meditation, but an unruly populace, crying for food and casting up a host of grievances, will bring the whole gathering into ugly turmoil; when this sort of people hold their peace so that a word from a man of sense may reach them, some passable order is restored and the baser part ceases to prevail; otherwise the silence of the better allows the rabble to rule, the distracted assembly unable to take the word from above.

This is the evil of state and of council: and this is the evil of man; man includes an inner rabble — pleasures, desires, fears — and these become masters when the man, the manifold, gives them play.

But one that has reduced his rabble and gone back to the Man he was, lives to that and is that Man again, so that what he allows to the body is allowed as to something separate.

There is the man, too, that lives partly in the one allegiance and partly in the other; he is a blend of the good that is himself with the evil that is alien.

16. But if that Principle can never fall to evil and we have given a true account of the soul’s entry or presence to body, what are we to say of the periodic Descents and Returns, the punishments, the banishment into animal forms? That teaching we have inherited from those ancient philosophers who have best probed into soul and we must try to show that our own doctrine is accordant with it, or at least not conflicting.

We have seen that the participation of things here in that higher means not that the soul has gone outside of itself to enter the corporeal, but that the corporeal has approached soul and is now participant in it; the coming affirmed by the ancients can be only that approach of the body to the higher by which it partakes of life and of soul; this has nothing to do with local entry but is some form of communion; by the descent and embodiment of current phrasing must be understood not that soul becomes an appanage of body but that it gives out to it something of itself; similarly, the soul’s departure is the complete cessation of that communion.

The various rankings of the universe will determine various degrees of the communion; soul, ultimate of the Intellectual, will give forth freely to body as being more nearly of the one power and standing closer, as distance holds in that order.

The soul’s evil will be this association, its good the release. Why? Because, even unmerged, a soul in any way to be described as attached to this universe is in some degree fallen from the All into a state of partition; essentially belonging to the All, it no longer directs its act Thither: thus, a man’s knowledge is one whole, but he may guide himself by no more than some single item of it, where his good would lie in living not by some such fragment but by the total of his knowing.

That One Soul — member of the Intellectual kosmos and there merging what it has of partial into the total — has broken away, so to speak, from the All to the part and to that devotes itself becoming partial with it: thus fire that might consume everything may be set to ply its all-power upon some trifle. So long as the soul remains utterly unattached it is soul not singled out; when it has accepted separation — not that of place but that of act determining individualities — it is a part, no longer the soul entire, or at least not entire in the first sense; when, on the contrary, it exercises no such outward control it is perfectly the All-Soul, the partial in it latent.

As for the entry into the World of the Shades, if this means into the unseen, that is its release; if into some lower place, there is nothing strange in that, since even here the soul is taken to be where the body is, in place with the body.

But on the dissolution of the body?

So long as the image-soul has not been discarded, clearly the higher will be where that is; if, on the contrary, the higher has been completely emancipated by philosophic discipline, the image-soul may very well go alone to that lower place, the authentic passing uncontaminated into the Intellectual, separated from that image but nonetheless the soul entire.

Let the image-offspring of the individuality — fare as it may, the true soul when it turns its light upon itself, chooses the higher and by that choice blends into the All, neither acting now nor extinct.

But it is time to return to our main theme:

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/p/plotinus/p72e/part6.4.html

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