Ennead 1.1. The Organism and the Self.

PSYCHOLOGIC DISTINCTIONS IN SOUL.

1. To what part of our nature do pleasure and grief, fear and boldness desire and aversion, and, last, pain, belong? Is it to the soul (herself), or to the soul when she uses the body as an instrument, or to some third (combination) of both? Even the latter might be conceived of in a double sense: it might be either the simple mixture of the soul and the body, or some different product resulting therefrom. The same uncertainty obtains about the products of the above mentioned experiences: namely, passions, actions, and opinions. For example, we may ask whether ratiocination and opinion both, belong to the same principle as the passions; or whether only one of them does; in which case the other would belong to some other principle. We should also inquire concerning the nature and classification of thought. Last we should study the principle that undertakes this inquiry and which comes to some conclusion about it. But, first of all, who is the agent, who feels? This is the real starting point: for even passions are modes of feeling, or at least they do not exist without it.

THE SOUL AS A COMPOSITE AGGREGATE.

2. Let us first examine the soul (herself). Is there any difference between the soul and the soul-essence? If there be a difference, the soul must be a composite aggregate: and it should no longer be a matter of surprise that both she and her essence, at least so far as she admits thereof, together experience the above mentioned passions, and in general the habits, and better or worse dispositions. But, on the contrary, if, soul and soul-essence be identical, then the soul should be a form which would be unreceptive for all these energies of essence, which on the contrary she imparts to other things, possessing in herself a connate energy which our reason reveals in her. In this case we must acknowledge that she is immortal, inasmuch as the immortal and undecaying must be impassible, giving to others without receiving anything in return from them; or at least, deriving nothing but from the superior (or anterior) principles, from which she is not cut off, inasmuch as they are better.

THE SOUL IS NOT ESSENCE.

A being that were so unreceptive to anything external would have no ground for fear of anything external. Fear might indeed be natural to something. Neither would she be bold, for this sentiment, implies shelter from what is terrifying. As to such desires which are satisfied by the emptying or filling of the body, they belong only to some nature foreign enough to be emptied or filled. How could she participate in a mixture, inasmuch as the essential is unmingled? Further she would not wish to have anything introduced (in herself), for this would imply striving to become something foreign to herself. She would also be far from suffering, for how could she grieve, and about what? For that which is of simple being is self-sufficient, in that she remains in her own being. Neither will she rejoice at any increase, as not even the good could happen to her. What she is, she ever will be. Nor could we attribute to the pure soul sensation, ratiocination or opinion; for sensation is the perception, of a form or of an impassible body; and besides ratiocination and opinion (depend) on sensation. We shall, however, have to examine whether or no we should attribute to the soul thought; also, whether pure pleasure can affect a soul while she remains alone.

THE SOUL USES THE BODY AS TOOL.

3. Whether the soul, according to her being, be located in the body, above or within this latter, the soul forms with the body an entity called (a “living being” or) organism. In this case, the soul using the body as a tool is not forced to participate in its passions, any more than workmen participate in the experiences of their tools. As to sensations, of course, the soul must perceive them, since in order to use her instrument, the soul must, by means of sensation, cognize the modifications that this instrument may receive from without. Thus seeing consists of using the eyes; and the soul at the same time feels the evils which may affect the sight. Similar is the case with griefs, pains and any corporeal exigency; also with the desires which arise from the soul’s need to take recourse to the ministry of the body. But how do passions from the body penetrate into the soul? For a body could communicate her own properties to some other body; but how could she do so to a soul?

SEPARATION OF SOUL FROM BODY.

Such a process would imply that one individual suffers when an entirely different individual is affected. There must be a distinction between them so long as we consider the former the user, and the latter the used; and it is philosophy, that produces this separation by giving to the soul the power of using the body as a tool.

PRIMITIVE RELATION BETWEEN SOUL AND BODY.

But what was the condition of the soul before her separation from the body by philosophy? Was she mingled with the body? If she were mingled with it, she must either have been formed by mixing; or she was spread all over the body; or she was a form interwoven with the body; or she was a form governing the body as a pilot governs the ship; or was partly mingled with, and partly separated from, the body. (In the latter case) I would call the independent part that which uses the body as a tool, while the mingled part is that which lowers itself to the classification or rank of instrument. Now philosophy raises the latter to the rank of the former; and the detached part turns her away, as far as our needs allow, from the body she uses, so that she may not always have to use the body.

CONSEQUENCES OF MIXTURE OF SOUL AND BODY.

4. Now let us suppose the soul is mingled with the body. In this mixture, the worse part, or body, will gain, while the soul will lose. The body will improve by participation with the soul; and the soul will deteriorate by association with death and irrationality. Well, does the soul, in somewhat losing life, gain the accession of sensation? On the other hand, would not the body, by participation in life, gain sensation and its derived passions? It is the latter, then, which will desire, inasmuch as it will enjoy the desired objects, and will feel fear about them. It is the latter which may be exposed to the escape of the objects of its desire, and to decay.

MIXTURE OF SOUL AND BODY.

We will set aside as impossible the mixture of two incommensurables, such as a line and the color called white. A mixture of the soul and body, which must imply their commensurability, would demand explanation. Even if the soul interpenetrate the body, the soul need not share the body’s passions, for the interpenetrating medium may remain impassible; as light, which remains such in spite of its diffusion. Thus the soul might remain a stranger to the body’s passions, though diffused through it, and need not necessarily undergo its passions.

ARISTOTELIAN HYPOTHESIS CONSIDERED.

Should we say that the soul is in the body, as form in matter? In this case, she is “being,” and she would be a separable form. If then she be in the body as, in the case of the axe, the schematic figure is in the iron, so as by her own proper virtue, to form the power of doing what iron thus formed accomplishes, we will have all the more reason to attribute the common passions to the body, which is an organized physical tool possessing potential life. For if as (Plato) says it be absurd to suppose that it is the soul that weaves, it is not any more reasonable to attribute the desires and griefs to the soul; rather, by far, to the living organism.

THE LIVING ORGANISM.

5. The “living organism” must mean either the thus organized body, or the common mixture of soul and body, or some third thing which proceeds from the two first. In either of these three cases the soul will have to be considered impassible, while the power of experiencing passions will inhere in something else; or the soul will have to share the body’s passions, in which case the soul will have to experience passions either identical or analogous to those of the body, so that to a desire of the animal there will correspond an act or a passion of the concupiscible appetite.

REFUTATION OF THE (JAMES-LANGE) THEORY OF EMOTIONS.

We shall later on consider the organized body; here we must find how the conjunction of soul and body could experience suffering. The theory that the affection of the body modifies it so as to produce a sensation which itself would end in the soul, leaves unexplained the origin of sensation. To the theory that suffering has its principle in this opinion or judgment, that a misfortune is happening to ourselves or some one related to us, whence results disagreeable emotion first in the body, and then in the whole living organism, there is this objection, that it is yet uncertain to which opinion belongs; to the soul, or to the conjunction of soul and body. Besides, the opinion of the presence of an evil does not always entail suffering; it is possible that, in spite of such an opinion, one feels no affliction; as, for instance, one may not become irritated at believing oneself scorned; or in experiencing no desire even in the expectation of some good.

NOT ALL AFFECTIONS COMMON TO SOUL AND BODY.

How then arise these affections common to the soul and the body? Shall we then say that desire derives from the desire-appetite, anger from the anger-appetite, or in short, every emotion or affliction from the corresponding appetite? But even so, they will not be common, and they will belong exclusively to the soul, or to the body. There are some whose origin needs the excitation of blood and bile, and that the body be in some certain state which excites desire, as in physical love. On the contrary, however, the desire of goodness is no common affection; it is an affection peculiar to the soul, as are several others. Reason, therefore, does not allow us to consider all affections as common to soul and body.

DESIRE, NOT SIMULTANEOUS WITH APPETITE.

Is it possible, however, that for example, in physical love, the man may experience a desire simultaneously with the corresponding appetite? This is impossible, for two reasons. If we say that the man begins to experience the desire, while the corresponding appetite continues it, it is plain the man cannot experience a desire without the activity of the appetite. If on the other hand it be the appetite that begins, it is clear that it cannot begin being excited unless the body first find itself in suitable circumstances, which is unreasonable.

SOUL AND BODY, BY UNITING, FORM AN INDIVIDUAL AGGREGATE.

6. It would, however, probably be better to put the matter thus: by their presence, the faculties of the soul cause reaction in the organs which possess them, so that while they themselves remain unmoved, they give them the power to enter into movement. In this case, however, when the living organism experiences suffering, the life-imparting cause must itself remain impassible, while the passions and energies belong wholly to that which receives life. In this case, therefore, the life will not belong exclusively to the soul, but to the conjunction of the soul and body; or, at least, the latter’s life will not be identical with the soul’s, nor will it be the faculty of sensation, which will feel, but the being in whom that faculty inheres.

SENSATION IMPLIES FEELING SOUL.

If, however, sensation, which is no more than a corporeal emotion, finds its term in the soul, the soul must surely feel sensation; therefore it does not occur as an effect of the presence of the faculty of sensation, for this ignores the feeling agent back of it. Nor is it the conjunction of soul and body, for unless the faculty of sensation operate, that aggregate could not feel, and it would then no longer include as elements either the soul, or the faculty of sensation.

SOUL-LIGHT FORMS ANIMAL NATURE.

7. The aggregate results from the presence of the soul, not indeed that the soul enters into the aggregate, or constitutes one of its elements. Out of this organized body, and of a kind of light furnished by herself, the soul forms the animal nature, which differs both from soul and body, and to which belongs sensation, as well as all the passions attributed to the animal.

RELATION OF ANIMAL TO HUMAN NATURE.

If now we should be asked how it happened that “we” feel, we answer: We are not separated from the organism, although within us exist principles of a higher kind which concur in forming the manifold complex of human nature.

EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL SENSATION.

As to the faculty of sensation which is peculiar to the soul, it cannot be the power of perceiving the sense-objects themselves, but only their typical forms, impressed on the animal by sensation. These have already somewhat of the intelligible nature; the exterior sensation peculiar to the animal is only the image of the sensation peculiar to the soul; which, by its very essence is truer and more real, since it consists only in contemplating images while remaining impassible. Ratiocination, opinion and thought, which principally constitute us, deal exclusively with these images, by which the soul has the power of directing the organism.

DISTINCTION IN THE WHOLE ORGANISM.

No doubt these faculties are “ours,” but “we” are the superior principle which, from above, directs the organizing but in this whole we shall have to distinguish an inferior part, mingled with the body, and a superior part, which is the true man. The former (irrational soul) constitutes the beast, as for instance, the lion; the latter is the rational soul, which constitutes man. In every ratiocination, it is “we” who reason, because ratiocination is the peculiar activity (or, energy) of the soul.

INDIVIDUAL RELATION WITH COSMIC INTELLECT.

8. What is our relation with the Intelligence? I mean not the habit imparted to the soul by the intellect, but the absolute Intelligence; which, though above us, is also common to all men, or peculiar to each of them; in other words, is simultaneously common and individual. Common because it is indivisible, one and everywhere the same; particular because each soul possesses it entirely in the first or rational soul. Likewise, we possess the ideas in a double manner; in the soul they appear developed and separate; in the intelligence they exist all together.

INDIVIDUAL RELATION WITH GOD AND COSMIC SOUL.

What is our relation with God? He hovers over the intelligible nature, and real being; while we, being on the third rank as counted from thence, are of the undivided universal Soul, which is indivisible because she forms part of the upper world, while she is divisible in regard to the bodies. She is indeed divisible in regard to the bodies, since she permeates each of them as far as they live; but at the same time she is indivisible because she is one in the universe.

SOUL GIVES LIFE TO PSYCHOLOGIC ELEMENTS.

She seems to be present in the bodies, and illuminates them, making living beings out of them. This occurs not as a mixture of herself and bodies, but by remaining individual, giving out images of herself, just as a single face in several mirrors. Of these, the first is sensation, which resides in the common part, the organism; then come all the other forms of the soul—forms which successively derive each from the other, down to the faculties of generation and increase, and generally, the power of producing and fashioning that which is different from self—which indeed the soul does as soon as she turns towards the object she fashions.

ORIGIN OF EVILS, SINS, AND ERRORS.

9. In this conception of the soul, she will be foreign to the cause of the evils which the man does and suffers. These refer to the organism, that common part, understood as above. Although opinion be deceptive, and makes us commit much evil, and although opinion and ratiocination both belong to the soul, yet the soul may be sinless, inasmuch as we are only mastered by the worse part of our nature. Often, indeed, we yield to appetite, to anger, and we are the dupes of some imperfect image. The conception of false things, the imagination does not await the judgment of discursive reason. There are still other cases where we yield to the lower part of ourselves; in sensation, for instance, we see things that do not exist, because we rely on the common sensation of soul and body, before having discerned its objects by discursive reason.

INTELLECT DID NOT GRASP THE OBJECT ITSELF.

In this case did the intellect grasp the object itself? Certainly not; and, therefore, it is not the intellect that is responsible for the error. We say as much for the “we,” according as we will or will not have perceived the object, either in the intellect, or in ourselves;—for it is possible to possess an object without having it actually present.

TRUE CONCEPTION ACT OF INTUITION.

We have distinguished from things common to soul and body, those peculiar to the soul. The former are corporeal, and cannot be produced without the organs, while the latter’s occurrence is independent of the body. Ratiocination is the essential and constitutive faculty of the real soul, because it determines the typical forms derived from sensation, it looks, it somehow feels the images, and really is the dominating part of the soul. The conception of true things is the act of intuitive thoughts.

MODIFICATIONS DERIVE FROM FOREIGN SOURCES.

There is often a resemblance and community between exterior and interior things; in this case the soul will not any the less exercise herself on herself, will not any the less remain within herself, without feeling any passive modification. As to the modifications and troubles which may arise in us, they derive from foreign elements, attached to the soul, as well as from passions experienced by the above described common part.

DISTINCTIONS IN “WE” AND THE “REAL MAN.”

10. But if “we” are the “soul,” we must admit that when we experience passions, the soul experiences them also; that when we act, the soul acts. We may even say that the common part is also “ours,” especially before philosophy separated the soul from the body; in fact, we even say “we” suffer, when our body suffers. “We” is, therefore, taken in a double sense: either the soul with the animal part, or living body; or simply the upper part; while the vivified body is a wild beast.

REAL MAN DIFFERS FROM BODY.

The real Man differs from the body; pure from every passion, he possesses the intellectual virtues, virtues which reside in the soul, either when she is separated from the body, or when she is—as usually here below—only separable by philosophy; for even when she seems to us entirely separated, the soul is, in this life, ever accompanied by a lower sensitive part, or part of growth, which she illuminates.

FUNCTION OF THE COMMON PART.

As to the virtues which consist not in wisdom, but in ethical habits and austerities, they belong to the common part. To it alone, also, are vices to be imputed, inasmuch as it exclusively experiences envy, jealousy and cowardly pity. Friendships, however, should be referred some to the common part, and others to the pure Soul or inner Man. In childhood, the faculties of the composite common part are exercised, but rarely is it illuminated from above. When this superior principle seems inactive in relation to us, it is actively engaged towards the upper intelligible world; and it only begins to be active towards us when it advances as far as (fancy or representation), the middle part of our being.

THE SUPERIOR PRINCIPLE NOT ALWAYS UTILIZED.

But is the superior principle not “ours” also? Surely, but only when we are conscious thereof; for we do not always utilize our possessions. This utilization, however, takes place when we direct this middle part of our being towards either the upper or lower worlds, and when we actualize into energies what before was only an (Aristotelian) “potentiality” or a (Stoic) “habit.”

THE ANIMATING PRINCIPLE OF ANIMALS.

We might define the animating principle of animals. If it be true, according to common opinion, that animal bodies contain human souls that have sinned, the separable part of these souls does not properly belong to these bodies; although these souls assist these bodies, the souls are not actually present to them. In them the sensation is common to the image of the soul and to the body;—but to the latter only in so far as it is organized and fashioned by the image of the soul. As to the animals into whose bodies no human soul entered, they are produced by an illumination of the universal Soul.

THE SOUL BOTH IMPASSIBLE AND PUNISHABLE.

12. There is a contradiction between our own former opinion that the soul cannot sin, and the universally admitted belief that the soul commits sins, expiates them, undergoes punishments in Hades, and that she passes into new bodies. Although we seem to be in a dilemma, forcing us to choose between them, it might be possible to show they are not incompatible.

PHILOSOPHIC SEPARATION REFERS NOT ONLY TO BODY, BUT TO PASSIBLE ACCRETIONS.

When we attribute infallibility to the soul, we are supposing her to be one and simple, identifying the soul with soul essence. When, however, we consider her capable of sin, we are looking at her as a complex, of her essence and of another kind of soul which can experience brutal passions. The soul, thus, is a combination of various elements; and it is not the pure soul, but this combination, which experiences passions, commits sins, and undergoes punishments. It was this conception of the soul Plato was referring to when he said: “We see the soul as we see Glaucus, the marine deity,” and he adds, “He who would know the nature of the soul herself should, after stripping her of all that is foreign to her, in her, especially consider her philosophic love for truth; and see to what things she attaches herself, and by virtue of whose affinities she is what she is.” We must, therefore, differentiate the soul’s life acts from that which is punished, and when we speak of philosophy’s separation of the soul, we mean a detaching not only from the body, but also from what has been added to the soul.

HOW THE ANIMAL NATURE IS GENERATED.

This addition occurs during her generation, or rather in the generation of another ideal form of soul, the “animal nature.” Elsewhere this generation has been explained thus. When the soul descends, at the very moment when she inclines towards the body, she produces an image of herself. The soul, however, must not be blamed for sending this image into the body. For the soul to incline towards the body is for the soul to shed light on what is below her; and this is no more sinful than to produce a shadow. That which is blamable is the illuminated object; for if it did not exist, there would be nothing to illuminate. The descent of the soul, or her inclination to the body, means only that she communicates life to what she illuminates. She drives away her image, or lets it vanish, if nothing receptive is in its vicinity; the soul lets the image vanish, not because she is separated—for to speak accurately, she is not separated from the body—but because she is no longer here below; and she is no longer below when she is entirely occupied in contemplating the intelligible world.

THE DOUBLE HERCULES SYMBOLIZES THE SOUL.

(Homer) seems to admit this distinction in speaking of Hercules, when he sends the image of this hero into Hades, and still he locates him within the abode of the deities;—it is at least the idea implied in this double assertion that Hercules is in Hades and that he is in Olympus. The poet, therefore, distinguished in him two elements. We might perhaps expound the passage as follows: Hercules had an active virtue, and because of his great qualities was judged worthy of being classified with the deities, but as he possessed only the active virtue, and not the contemplative virtue, he could not be admitted into Heaven entirely; while he is in heaven, there is something of him in Hades.

RELATION OF THE “WE” AND THE “SOUL.”

13. Is it “we” or the “soul” which makes these researches? It is we, by means of the soul. The cause of this is, not we who consider the soul because we possess her, but that the soul considers herself. This need not imply motion, as it is generally understood, but a motion entirely different from that of the bodies, and which is its own life.

INTELLIGENCE NOT OURS, BUT WE.

Intelligence also is ours, but only in the sense that the soul is intelligent; for us, the (higher) life consists in a better thinking. The soul enjoys this life either when she thinks intelligible objects, or when the intellect is both a part of ourselves, and something superior towards which we ascend.


Ennead 1.2. Concerning Virtue.

VIRTUE THE ROAD TO ESCAPE EVILS.

1. Man must flee from (this world) here below (for two reasons): because it is the nature of the soul to flee from evil, and because inevitable evil prevails and dominates this world here below. What is this flight (and how can we accomplish it)? (Plato), tells us it consists in “being assimilated to divinity.” This then can be accomplished by judiciously conforming to justice, and holiness; in short, by virtue.

CAN THESE VIRTUES BE ASCRIBED TO THE DIVINITY?

If then it be by virtue that we are assimilated (to divinity), does this divinity to whom we are trying to achieve assimilation, Himself possess virtue? Besides, what divinity is this? Surely it must be He who must most seem to possess virtue, the world-Soul, together with the principle predominating in her, whose wisdom is most admirable (supreme Intelligence)—for it is quite reasonable that we should be assimilated to Him. Nevertheless, one might, unreflectingly, question whether all virtues might suit this divinity; whether, for instance, moderation in his desires, or courage could be predicated of Him; for, as to courage, nothing can really harm Him, and He therefore has nothing to fear; and as to moderation, no pleasant object whose presence would excite His desires, or whose absence would in Him awaken regrets, could possibly exist. But inasmuch as the divinity, just as we ourselves, aspires to intelligible things, He is evidently the source of our gracious sanity and virtues. So we are forced to ask ourselves, “Does the divinity possess these virtues?”

HOMELY VIRTUES ASSIMILATE US TO DIVINITY ONLY PARTIALLY.

It would not be proper to attribute to Him the homely (or, civil) virtues, such as prudence, which “relates to the rational part of our nature”; courage, which “relates to our irascible part”; temperance, which consists of the harmonious consonance of our desires and our reason; last, of justice, which “consists in the accomplishment by all these faculties of the function proper to each of them,” “whether to command, or to obey,” (as said Plato). But if we cannot become assimilated to the divinity by these homely virtues, that process must demand similarly named virtues of a superior order. However, these homely virtues would not be entirely useless to achieve that result, for one cannot say that while practicing them one does not at all resemble the divinity as they who practice them are reputed to be godlike. These lower virtues do therefore yield some resemblance to the divinity, but complete assimilation can result only from virtues of a higher order.

THE DIVINE NEED NOT POSSESS THE LOWER VIRTUES BY WHICH WE ARE ASSIMILATED TO HIM.

Virtues, even if they be not homely, are therefore ultimately ascribed (to the divinity). Granting that the divinity does not possess the homely virtues, we may still become assimilated to Him by other virtues for with virtues of another order the case might differ. Therefore, without assimilating ourselves to the divinity by homely virtues we might nevertheless by means of virtues which still are ours, become assimilated to the Being which does not possess virtue.

This may be explained by an illustration. When a body is warmed by the presence of fire, the fire itself need not be heated by the presence of another fire. It might be argued that there was heat in the fire, but a heat that is innate. Reasoning by analogy, the virtue, which in the soul is only adventitious, is innate in Him from whom the soul derives it by imitation; (in other words, the cause need not necessarily possess the same qualities as the effect).

Our argument from heat might however be questioned, inasmuch as the divinity really does possess virtue, though it be of a higher nature. This observation would be correct, if the virtue in which the soul participates were identical with the principle from which she derives it. But there is a complete opposition; for when we see a house, the sense-house is not identical with the intelligible House, though possessing resemblance thereto. Indeed, the sense-house participates in order and proportion, though neither order, proportion, nor symmetry could be attributed to the idea of the House. Likewise, we derived from the divinity order, proportion and harmony, which, here below, are conditions of virtue, without thereby implying that the divinity Himself need possess order, proportion, or harmony. Similarly, it is not necessary that He possess virtue, although we become assimilated to Him thereby.

Such is our demonstration that human assimilation to the divine Intelligence by virtue does not (necessarily imply) (in the divine Intelligence itself) possession of virtue. Mere logical demonstration thereof is not, however, sufficient; we must also convince.

THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF RESEMBLANCE.

2. Let us first examine the virtues by which we are assimilated to the divinity, and let us study the identity between our soul-image which constitutes virtue, and supreme Intelligence’s principle which, without being virtue, is its archetype. There are two kinds of resemblance: the first entails such identity of nature as exists when both similar things proceed from a same principle; the second is that of one thing to another which precedes it, as its principle. In the latter case, there is no reciprocity, and the principle does not resemble that which is inferior to it; or rather, the resemblance must be conceived entirely differently. It does not necessitate that the similar objects be of the same kind; it rather implies that they are of different kinds, inasmuch as they resemble each other differently.

HOW HOMELY VIRTUES MAY ASSIMILATE MAN TO THE SUPREME.

(It is difficult to define) what is virtue, in general or in particular. To clear up the matter, let us consider one particular kind of virtue: then it will be easy to determine the common essence underlying them all.

The above-mentioned homely virtues really render our souls gracious, and improve them, regulating and moderating our appetites, tempering our passions, delivering us from false opinions, limiting us within just bounds, and they themselves must be determined by some kind of measure. This measure given to our souls resembles the form given to matter, and the proportion of intelligible things; it is as it were a trace of what is most perfect above. What is unmeasured, being no more than formless matter, cannot in any way resemble divinity. The greater the participation in form, the greater the assimilation to the formless; and the closer we get to form, the greater the participation therein. Thus our soul, whose nature is nearer to divinity and more kindred to it than the body is, thereby participates the more in the divine, and increases that resemblance enough to make it seem that the divinity is all that she herself is. Thus arises the deception, which represents her as the divine divinity, as if her quality constituted that of the divinity. Thus are men of homely virtues assimilated to the divinity.

PLATO DISTINGUISHES BETWEEN THE HOMELY AND THE HIGHER VIRTUES.

3. We will now, following (Plato), speak of another kind of assimilation as the privilege of a higher virtue. We will thus better understand the nature of homely virtues, and the higher virtues, and the difference between them. Plato is evidently distinguishing two kinds of virtues when he says that assimilation to the divinity consists in fleeing from (the world) here below; when he adds the qualification “homely” to the virtues relating to social life; and when in another place he asserts that all virtues are processes of purification; and it is not to the homely virtues that he attributes the power of assimilating us to the divinity.

HOW VIRTUES PURIFY.

How then do the virtues purify? How does this process of purification bring us as near as possible to the divinity? So long as the soul is mingled with the body, sharing its passions and opinions, she is evil. She becomes better, that is, she acquires virtues, only when, instead of agreeing with the body, she thinks by herself (this is true thought, and constitutes prudence); when she ceases to share its passions (in other words, temperance); when she no longer fears separation from the body (a state called courage); and last, when reason and intelligence can enforce their command (or justice).

SELF-CONTROL IS ASSIMILATION TO THE DIVINITY.

We may therefore unhesitatingly state that the resemblance to the divinity lies in such regulation, in remaining impassible while thinking intelligible things; for what is pure is divine and the nature of the divine action is such that whatever imitates it thereby possesses wisdom. But it is not the divinity that possesses such a disposition, for dispositions are the property of souls only. Besides, the soul does not think intelligible objects in the same manner as the divinity; what is contained in the divinity is contained within us in a manner entirely different, or even perhaps is not at all contained. For instance, the divinity’s thought is not at all identical with ours; the divinity’s thought is a primary principle from which our thought is derived and differs. As the vocal word is only the image of the interior reason of the soul, so also is the word of the soul only the image of the Word of a superior principle; and as the exterior word, when compared to the interior reason of the soul, seems discrete, or divided, so the reason of the soul, which is no more than the interpreter of the intelligible word, is discrete, in comparison with the latter. Thus does virtue belong to the soul without belonging either to absolute Intelligence, nor to the Principle superior to Intelligence.

PURIFICATION PRODUCES CONVERSION; AND VIRTUE MAKES USE OF THIS.

4. Purification may be either identical with the above-defined virtue, or virtue may be the result of purification. In this case, does virtue consist of the actual process of purification, or in the already purified condition? This is our problem here.

The process of purification is inferior to the already purified condition; for purity is the soul’s destined goal. (Negative) purity is mere separation from extraneous things; it is not yet (positive) possession of its prize. If the soul had possessed goodness before losing her purity, mere purification would be sufficient; and even in this case the residuum of the purification would be the goodness, and not the purification. What is the residuum? Not goodness; otherwise, the soul would not have fallen into evil. The soul therefore possesses the form of goodness, without however being able to remain solidly attached thereto, because her nature permits her to turn either to the good, or the evil. The good of the soul is to remain united to her sister intelligence; her evil, is to abandon herself to the contrary things. After purifying the soul, therefore, she must be united to the divinity; but this implies turning her towards Him. Now this conversion does not begin to occur after the purification, but is its very result. The virtue of the soul, therefore, does not consist in her conversion, but in that which she thereby obtains. This is the intuition of her intelligible object; its image produced and realized within herself; an image similar to that in the eye, an image which represents the things seen. It is not necessary to conclude that the soul did not possess this image, nor had any reminiscence thereof; she no doubt possessed it, but inactively, latently, obscurely. To clarify it, to discover her possessions, the soul needs to approach the source of all clearness. As, however, the soul possesses only the images of the intelligibles, without possessing the intelligibles themselves, she will be compelled to compare with them her own image of them. Easily does the soul contemplate the intelligibles, because the intelligence is not foreign to her; when the soul wishes to enter in relations with them, all the soul needs to do is to turn her glance towards them. Otherwise, the intelligence, though present in the soul, will remain foreign to her. This explains how all our acquisitions of knowledge are foreign to us (as if non-existent), while we fail to recall them.

THE LIMIT OF PURIFICATION IS THAT OF THE SOUL’S SELF-CONTROL.

5. The limit of purification decides to which (of the three hypostases of) divinity the soul may hope to assimilate and identify herself; therefore we shall have to consider that limit. To decide that would be to examine the limit of the soul’s ability to repress anger, appetites, and passions of all kinds, to triumph over pain and similar feelings—in short, to separate her from the body. This occurs when, recollecting herself from the various localities over which she had, as it were, spread herself, she retires within herself; when she estranges herself entirely from the passions, when she allows the body only such pleasures as are necessary or suitable to cure her pains, to recuperate from its fatigues, and in avoiding its becoming importunate; when she becomes insensible to sufferings; or, if that be beyond her power, in supporting them patiently, and in diminishing them by refusing to share them; when she appeases anger as far as possible, even suppressing it entirely, if possible; or at least, if that be impossible, not participating therein; abandoning to the animal nature all unthinking impulses, and even so reducing to a minimum all reflex movements; when she is absolutely inaccessible to fear, having nothing left to risk; and when she represses all sudden movements, except nature’s warning of dangers. Evidently, the purified soul will have to desire nothing shameful. In eating and drinking, she will seek only the satisfaction of a need, while remaining foreign to it; nor will she seek the pleasures of love; or, if she does, she will not go beyond the exactions of nature, resisting every unconsidered tendency, or even in remaining within the involuntary flights of fancy.

THE INFLUENCE OF REASON IS SUGGESTIVE.

In short, the soul will be pure from all these passions, and will even desire to purify our being’s irrational part so as to preserve it from emotions, or at least to moderate their number and intensity, and to appease them promptly by her presence. So would a man, in the neighborhood of some sage, profit thereby, either by growing similar to him, or in refraining from doing anything of which the sage might disapprove. This (suggestive) influence of reason will exert itself without any struggle; its mere presence will suffice. The inferior principle will respect it to the point of growing resentful against itself, and reproaching itself for its weakness, if it feel any agitation which might disturb its master’s repose.

THE GOAL OF PURIFICATION IS SECOND DIVINITY, INTELLIGENCE.

6. A man who has achieved such a state no longer commits such faults; for he has become corrected. But his desired goal is not to cease failing, but to be divine. In case he still allows within himself the occurrence of some of the above-mentioned unreflecting impulses, he will be simultaneously divinity and guardian, a double being; or rather, he will contain a principle of another nature (Intelligence), whose virtue will likewise differ from his. If, however, he be not troubled by any of those motions, he will be wholly divine; he will be one of those divinities “who (as Plato said) form the attending escort of the First.” It is a divinity of such a nature that has come down from above to dwell in us. To become again what one was originally, is to live in this superior world. He who has achieved that height dwells with pure Intelligence, and assimilates himself thereto as far as possible. Consequently, he feels none of those emotions, nor does he any more commit any actions, which would be disapproved of by the superior principle who henceforth is his only master.

THE HIGHER VIRTUES MERGE INTO WISDOM.

For such a being the separate virtues merge. For him, wisdom consists in contemplating the (essences) possessed by Intelligence, and with which Intelligence is in contact. There are two kinds of wisdom, one being proper to intelligence, the other to the soul; only in the latter may we speak of virtue. In the Intelligence exists only the energy (of thought), and its essence. The image of this essence, seen here below in a being of another nature, is the virtue which emanates from it. In Intelligence, indeed, resides neither absolute justice, nor any of those genuinely so-called virtues; nothing is left but their type. Its derivative in the soul is virtue; for virtue is the attribute of an individual being. On the contrary, the intelligible belongs to itself only, and is the attribute of no particular being.

INCARNATE JUSTICE IS INDIVIDUAL; IF ABSOLUTE, IT IS INDIVISIBLE.

Must justice ever imply multiplicity if it consist in fulfilling its proper function? Surely, as long as it inheres in a principle with several parts (such as a human soul, in which several functions may be distinguished); but its essence lies in the accomplishment of the function proper to every being, even when inhering in a unitary principle (such as Intelligence). Absolute and veritable Justice consists in the self-directed action of an unitary Principle, in which no parts can be distinguished.

THE HIGHER FORMS OF THE VIRTUES.

In this higher realm, justice consists in directing the action of the soul towards intelligence; temperance is the intimate conversion of the soul towards intelligence; courage is the (suggestive fascination) or impassibility, by which the soul becomes similar to that which it contemplates; since it is natural for intelligence to be impassible. Now the soul derives this impassibility from the virtue which hinders her from sharing the passions of the lower principle with which she is associated.

EVEN THE LOWER VIRTUES ARE MUTUALLY RELATED.

7. Within the soul the virtues have the same interconnection obtaining within Intelligence between the types superior to virtue. For Intelligence, it is thought that constitutes wisdom and prudence; conversion towards oneself is temperance; the fulfillment of one’s proper function is justice, and the intelligence’s perseverance in remaining within itself, in maintaining itself pure and separated from matter, is analogous to courage. To contemplate intelligence will therefore, for the soul, constitute wisdom and prudence, which then become virtues, and no longer remain mere intellectual types. For the soul is not identical with the essences she thinks, as is intelligence. Similarly, the other soul-virtues will correspond to the superior types. It is not otherwise with purification, for since every virtue is a purification, virtue exacts preliminary purification; otherwise, it would not be perfect.

THE HIGHER VIRTUES IMPLY THE LOWER; BUT NOT CONVERSELY.

The possessor of the higher virtues necessarily possesses the potentiality for the inferior virtues; but the possessor of the lower does not, conversely, possess the higher. Such are the characteristics of the virtuous man.

PRUDENCE TO DECIDE WHETHER IT IS POSSIBLE TO POSSESS VIRTUES UNSYMMETRICALLY?

(Many interesting questions remain). Is it possible for a man to possess the higher or lower virtues in accomplished reality, or otherwise (merely theoretically)? To decide that, we would have individually to examine each, as, for example, prudence. How could such a virtue exist merely potentially, borrowing its principles from elsewhere? What would happen if one virtue advanced naturally to a certain degree, and another virtue to another? What would you think of a temperance which would moderate certain (impulses), while entirely suppressing others? Similar questions might be raised about other virtues, and the arbiter of the degree to which the virtues have attained would have to be prudence.

THE HOMELY VIRTUES MUST BE SUPPLEMENTED BY DIVINE DISCONTENT.

No doubt, under certain circumstances, the virtuous man, in his actions, will make use of some of the lower, or homely virtues; but even so he will supplement them by standards or ideas derived from higher virtues. For instance, he will not be satisfied with a temperance which would consist in mere moderation, but he will gradually seek to separate himself more and more from matter. Again, he will supplement the life of a respectable man, exacted by common-sense homely virtues; he will be continually aspiring higher, to the life of the divinities; for our effort at assimilation should be directed not at mere respectability, but to the gods themselves. To seek no more than to become assimilated to respectable individuals would be like trying to make an image by limiting oneself to copying another image, itself modelled after another image (but not copying the original). The assimilation here recommended results from taking as model a superior being.


Ennead 1.3. Of Dialectic, or the Means of Raising the Soul to the Intelligible World.

SEARCH FOR A DEMONSTRATION OF DIVINITY SUCH THAT THE DEMONSTRATION ITSELF WILL DEIFY.

1. What method, art or study will lead us to the goal we are to attain, namely, the Good, the first Principle, the Divinity, by a demonstration which itself can serve to raise the soul to the superior world?

METHODS DIFFER ACCORDING TO INDIVIDUALS; BUT THERE ARE CHIEFLY TWO.

He who is to be promoted to that world should know everything, or at least, as says (Plato), he should be as learned as possible. In his first generation he should have descended here below to form a philosopher, a musician, a lover. That is the kind of men whose nature makes them most suitable to be raised to the intelligible world. But how are we going to raise them? Does a single method suffice for all? Does not each of them need a special method? Doubtless. There are two methods to follow: the one for those who rise to the intelligible world from here below, and the other for those who have already reached there. We shall start by the first of these two methods; then comes that of the men who have already achieved access to the intelligible world, and who have, so to speak, already taken root there. Even these must ceaselessly progress till they have reached the summit; for one must stop only when one has reached the supreme term.

RETURN OF THE SOUL OF THE PHILOSOPHER, MUSICIAN AND LOVER.

The latter road of progress must here be left aside (to be taken up later), to discuss here fully the first, explaining the operation of the return of the soul to the intelligible world. Three kinds of men offer themselves to our examination: the philosopher, the musician, and the lover. These three must clearly be distinguished, beginning by determining the nature and character of the musician.

HOW THE MUSICIAN RISES TO THE INTELLIGIBLE WORLD.

The musician allows himself to be easily moved by beauty, and admires it greatly; but he is not able by himself to achieve the intuition of the beautiful. He needs the stimulation of external impressions. Just as some timorous being is awakened by the least noise, the musician is sensitive to the beauty of the voice and of harmonies. He avoids all that seems contrary to the laws of harmony and of unity, and enjoys rhythm and melodies in instrumental and vocal music. After these purely sensual intonations, rhythm and tunes, he will surely in them come to distinguish form from matter, and to contemplate the beauty existing in their proportions and relations. He will have to be taught that what excites his admiration in these things, is their intelligible harmony, the beauty it contains, and, in short, beauty absolute, and not particular. He will have to be introduced to philosophy by arguments that will lead him to recognize truths that he ignored, though he possessed them instinctively. Such arguments will be specified elsewhere.

HOW THE LOVER RISES TO THE INTELLIGIBLE.

2. The musician can rise to the rank of the lover, and either remain there, or rise still higher. But the lover has some reminiscence of the beautiful; but as here below he is separated (from it, he is incapable of clearly knowing what it is). Charmed with the beautiful objects that meet his views, he falls into an ecstasy. He must therefore be taught not to content himself with thus admiring a single body, but, by reason, to embrace all bodies that reveal beauty; showing him what is identical in all, informing him that it is something alien to the bodies, which comes from elsewhere, and which exists even in a higher degree in the objects of another nature; citing, as examples, noble occupations, and beautiful laws. He will be shown that beauty is found in the arts, the sciences, the virtues, all of which are suitable means of familiarizing the lover with the taste of incorporeal things. He will then be made to see that beauty is one, and he will be shown the element which, in every object, constitutes beauty. From virtues he will be led to progress to intelligence and essence, while from there he will have nothing else to do but to progress towards the supreme goal.

HOW THE PHILOSOPHER RISES TO THE INTELLIGIBLE WORLD.

3. The philosopher is naturally disposed to rise to the intelligible world. Borne on by light wings, he rushes thither without needing to learn to disengage himself from sense-objects, as do the preceding men. His only uncertainty will concern the road to be followed, all he will need will be a guide. He must therefore be shown the road; he must be helped to detach himself entirely from sense-objects, himself already possessing, as he does, the desire, being since a long while already detached therefrom by his nature. For this purpose he will be invited to apply himself to mathematics, so as to accustom him to think of incorporeal things, to believe in their existence. Being desirous of instruction, he will learn them easily; as, by his nature, he is already virtuous, he will need no more than promotion to the perfection of virtue. After mathematics, he will be taught dialectics, which will perfect him.

WHAT DIALECTICS IS.

4. What then is this dialectics, knowledge of which must be added to mathematics? It is a science which makes us capable of reasoning about each thing, to say what it is, in what it differs from the others, in what it resembles them, where it is, whether it be one of the beings, to determine how many veritable beings there are, and which are the objects that contain nonentity instead of veritable essence. This science treats also of good and evil; of everything that is subordinated to (being), the Good, and to its contrary; of the nature of what is eternal, and transitory. It treats of each matter scientifically, and not according to mere opinion. Instead of wandering around the sense-world, it establishes itself in the intelligible world; it concentrates its whole attention on this world, and after having saved our soul from deceit, dialectics “pastures our soul in the meadow of truth,” (as thought Plato). Then it makes use of the Platonic method of division to discern ideas, to define each object, to rise to the several kinds of essences (as thought Plato); then, by thought concatenating all that is thence derived, dialectics continues its deductions until it has gone through the whole domain of the intelligible. Then, by reversing, dialectics returns to the very Principle from which first it had started out. Resting there, because it is only in the intelligible world that it can find rest, no longer needing to busy itself with a multitude of objects, because it has arrived at unity, dialectics considers its logic, which treats of propositions and arguments. This logic is an art subordinate to dialectics just as writing is subordinate to thought. In logic, dialectics recognizes some principles as necessary, and others as constituting preparatory exercises. Then, along with everything else, subjecting these principles to its criticism, it declares some of them useful, and others superfluous, or merely technical.

DIALECTICS IS THE HIGHEST PART OF PHILOSOPHY.

5. Whence does this science derive its proper principles? Intelligence furnishes the soul with the clear principles she is capable of receiving. Having discovered and achieved these principles, dialectics puts their consequences in order. Dialectics composes, and divides, till it has arrived at a perfect intelligence of things; for according to (Plato), dialectics is the purest application of intelligence and wisdom. In this case, if dialectics be the noblest exercise of our faculties, it must exercise itself with essence and the highest objects. Wisdom studies existence, as intelligence studies that which is still beyond existence (the One, or the Good). But is not philosophy also that which is most eminent? Surely. But there is no confusion between philosophy and dialectics, because dialectics is the highest part of philosophy. It is not (as Aristotle thought) merely an instrument for philosophy, nor (as Epicurus thought) made up of pure speculations and abstract rules. It studies things themselves, and its matter is the (real) beings. It reaches them by following a method which yields reality as well as the idea. Only accidentally does dialectics busy itself with error and sophisms. Dialectics considers them alien to its mission, and as produced by a foreign principle. Whenever anything contrary to the rule of truth is advanced, dialectics recognizes the error by the light of the truths it contains. Dialectics, however, does not care for propositions, which, to it, seem only mere groupings of letters. Nevertheless, because it knows the truth, dialectics also understands propositions, and, in general, the operations of the soul. Dialectics knows what it is to affirm, to deny, and how to make contrary or contradictory assertions. Further, dialectics distinguishes differences from identities, grasping the truth by an intuition that is as instantaneous as is that of the senses; but dialectics leaves to another science, that enjoys those details, the care of treating them with exactness.

THE VARIOUS BRANCHES OF PHILOSOPHY CROWNED BY DIALECTICS.

6. Dialectics, therefore, is only one part of philosophy, but the most important. Indeed, philosophy has other branches. First, it studies nature (in physics), therein employing dialectics, as the other arts employ arithmetic, though philosophy owes far more to dialectics. Then philosophy treats of morals, and here again it is dialectics that ascertains the principles; ethics limits itself to building good habits thereon, and to propose the exercises that shall produce those good habits. The (Aristotelian) rational virtues also owe to dialectics the principles which seem to be their characteristics; for they chiefly deal with material things (because they moderate the passions). The other virtues also imply the application of reason to the passions and actions which are characteristic of each of them. However, prudence applies reason to them in a superior manner. Prudence deals rather with the universal, considering whether the virtues concatenate, and whether an action should be done now, or be deferred, or be superseded by another (as thought Aristotle). Now it is dialectics, or its resultant science of wisdom which, under a general and immaterial form, furnishes prudence with all the principles it needs.

WITHOUT DIALECTICS LOWER KNOWLEDGE WOULD BE IMPERFECT.

Could the lower knowledge not be possessed without dialectics or wisdom? They would, at least, be imperfect and mutilated. On the other hand, though the dialectician, that is, the true sage, no longer need these inferior things, he never would have become such without them; they must precede, and they increase with the progress made in dialectics. Virtues are in the same case. The possessor of natural virtues may, with the assistance of wisdom, rise to perfect virtues. Wisdom, therefore, only follows natural virtues. Then wisdom perfects the morals. Rather, the already existing natural virtues increase and grow perfect along with wisdom. Whichever of these two things precedes, complements the other. Natural virtues, however, yield only imperfect views and morals; and the best way to perfect them, is philosophic knowledge of the principles from which they depend.


Ennead I.4. Whether Animals May Be Termed Happy.

DEFINITIONS OF HAPPINESS.

1. The (Aristotelian) ideal of living well and happiness are (practically) identical. Should we, on that account, grant even to animals the privilege of achieving happiness? Why might we not say that they live well, if it be granted them, in their lives, to follow the course of nature, without obstacles? For if to live well consist either in pleasure (pleasant passions, as the Epicureans taught), or in realizing one’s own individual aim (the Stoic ideal), then this living well is, in either case, possible for animals, who can both enjoy pleasure, and accomplish their peculiar aim. Thus singing birds live a life desirable for them, if they enjoy pleasure, and sing conformably to their nature. If further we should define happiness as achieving the supreme purpose towards which nature aspires (the Stoic ideal), we should, even in this case, admit that animals share in happiness when they accomplish this supreme purpose. Then nature arouses in them no further desires, because their whole career is completed, and their life is filled from beginning to end.

WHETHER PLANTS MAY BE TERMED HAPPY.

There are no doubt some who may object to our admitting to happiness living beings other than man. They might even point out that on this basis happiness could not be refused to even the lowest beings, such as plants: for they also live, their life also has a purpose, by which they seek to fulfill their development. However, it would seem rather unreasonable to say, that living beings other than humans cannot possess happiness by this mere reason that to us they seem pitiable. Besides, it would be quite possible to deny to plants what may be predicated of other living beings, on the grounds that plants lack emotion. Some might hold they are capable of happiness, on the strength of their possessing life, for a being that lives can live well or badly; and in this way we could say that they possess or lack well-being, and bear, or do not bear fruits. If (as Aristippus thought), pleasure is the goal of man, and if to live well is constituted by enjoying it, it would be absurd to claim that no living beings other than man could live well. The same argument applies if we define happiness as (a state of imperturbable tranquility, by Epicurus called) ataraxy; or as (the Stoic ideal, of) living conformably to nature.

LIVING WELL NEED NOT BE EXTENDED EVEN TO ALL ANIMALS.

2. Those who deny the privilege of living well to plants, because these lack sensation, are not on that account obliged to grant it to all animals. For, if sensation consist in the knowledge of the experienced affection, this affection must already be good before the occurrence of the knowledge. For instance, the being must be in a state conformable to nature even though ignorant thereof. He must fulfill his proper function even when he does not know it. He must possess pleasure before perceiving it. Thus if, by the possession of this pleasure, the being already possesses the Good, he thereby possesses even well-being. What need then is there to join thereto sensation, unless indeed well-being be defined as sensation and knowledge (of an affection or state of the soul) rather than in the latter affection and state of the soul itself?

EVEN THEY WHO DEFINE HAPPINESS AS SENSATION SEEK HIGHER HAPPINESS.

The Good would thus be reduced to no more than sensation, or the actualization of the sense-life. In this case, to possess it, it is sufficient to perceive irrespective of the content of that perception. Other persons might assert that goodness results from the union of these two things: of the state of the soul, and of the knowledge the soul has of it. If then the Good consist in the perception of some particular state, we shall have to ask how elements which, by themselves, are indifferent could, by their union, constitute the good. Other theories are that the Good consists in some particular state, or in possession of some particular disposition, and conscious enjoyment of the presence of the Good. These would, however, still have to answer the question whether, for good living, it be sufficient that the being knows he possesses this state; or must he know not only that this state is pleasant, but also that it is the Good? If then it be necessary to realize that it is the Good, the matter is one no longer of the function of sensation, but of a faculty higher than the senses. To live well, in this case, it will no longer be sufficient to possess pleasure, but we shall have to know that pleasure is the Good. The cause of happiness will not be the presence of pleasure itself, but the power of judging that pleasure is a good. Now judgment is superior to affection; it is reason or intelligence, while pleasure is only an affection, and what is irrational could not be superior to reason. How would reason forget itself to recognize as superior what is posited in a genus opposed to it? These men who deny happiness to plants, who explain it as some form of sensation, seems to us, in spite of themselves, to be really seeking happiness of a higher nature, and to consider it as this better thing which is found only in a completer life.

NOT EVEN REASON IS A SUFFICIENT EXPLANATION OF LIVING WELL.

There is a greater chance of being right in the opinion that happiness consists in the reasonable life, instead of mere life, even though united to sensation. Still even this theory must explain why happiness should be the privilege of the reasonable animal. Should we add to the idea of an animal the quality of being reasonable, because reason is more sagacious, more skillful in discovering, and in procuring the objects necessary to satisfy the first needs of nature? Would you esteem reason just as highly if it were incapable of discovering, or procuring these objects? If we value reason only for the objects it aids us in getting, happiness might very well belong to the very irrational beings, if they are, without reason, able to procure themselves the things necessary to the satisfaction of the first needs of their nature. In this case, reason will be nothing more than an instrument. It will not be worth seeking out for itself, and its perfection, in which virtue has been shown to consist, will be of little importance. The opposite theory would be that reason does not owe its value to its ability to procure for us objects necessary to the satisfaction of the first needs of nature, but that it deserves to be sought out for itself. But even here we would have to explain its function, its nature, and set forth how it becomes perfect. If it were to be improvable, it must not be defined as the contemplation of sense-objects, for its perfection and essence (being) consist in a different (and higher) function. It is not among the first needs of nature, nor among the objects necessary to the satisfaction of its needs; it has nothing to do with them, being far superior. Otherwise, these philosophers would be hard pressed to explain its value. Until they discover some nature far superior to the class of objects with which they at present remain, they will have to remain where it suits them to be, ignorant of what good living is, and both how to reach that goal, and to what beings it is possible.

HAPPINESS DEPENDS EXCLUSIVELY ON INTERIOR CHARACTERISTICS.

3. Dismissing these theories, we return to our own definition of happiness. We do not necessarily make life synonymous with happiness by attributing happiness to a living being. Otherwise, we would be implying that all living beings can achieve it, and we would be admitting to real complete enjoyment thereof all those who possessed that union and identity which all living beings are naturally capable of possessing. Finally, it would be difficult to grant this privilege to the reasonable being, while refusing it to the brute; for both equally possess life. They should, therefore, be capable of achieving happiness—for, on this hypothesis, happiness could be no more than a kind of life. Consequently, the philosophers who make it consist in the rational life, not in the life common to all beings, do not perceive that they implicitly suppose that happiness is something different from life. They are then obliged to say that happiness resides in a pure quality, in the rational faculty. But the subject (to which they should refer happiness) is the rational life, since happiness can belong only to the totality (of life joined to reason). They therefore, really limit the life they speak of to a certain kind of life; not that they have the right to consider these two kinds of life (life in general, and rational life) as being ranked alike, as both members of a single division would be, but another kind of distinction might be established between them, such as when we say that one thing is prior, and the other posterior. Since “life” may be understood in different senses, and as it possesses different degrees, and since by mere verbal similarity life may be equally predicated of plants and of irrational animals, and since its differences consist in being more or less complete, analogy demands a similar treatment of “living well.” If, by its life, a being be the image of some other being, by its happiness it will also be the image of the happiness of this other being. If happiness be the privilege of complete life, the being that possesses a complete life will also alone possess happiness; for it possesses what is best since, in the order of these existences, the best is possession of the essence (being) and perfection of life. Consequently, the Good is not anything incidental, for no subject could owe its good to a quality that would be derived from elsewhere. What indeed could be added to complete life, to render it excellent?

THE GOOD CONSISTS IN INTELLIGENCE.

Our own definition of the Good, interested as we are not in its cause, but in its essence, is that the perfect life, that is genuine and real, consists in intelligence. The other kinds of life are imperfect. They offer no more than the image of life. They are not Life in its fullness and purity. As we have often said they are not life, rather than its contrary. In one word, since all living beings are derived from one and the same Principle, and since they do not possess an equal degree of life, this principle must necessarily be the primary Life, and perfectness.

HAPPINESS MUST BE SOMETHING HUMAN.

4. If man be capable of possessing perfect Life, he is happy as soon as he possesses it. If it were otherwise, if the perfect life pertained to the divinities alone, to them alone also would happiness belong. But since we attribute happiness to men, we shall have to set forth in what that which procures it consists. I repeat, what results from our former considerations, namely, that man has perfect Life when, besides the sense-life, he possesses reason and true intelligence. But is man as such stranger to the perfect Life, and does he possess it as something alien (to his essential being)? No, for no man lacks happiness entirely, either actually or even potentially. But shall we consider happiness as a part of the man, and that he in himself is the perfect form of life? We had better think that he who is a stranger to the perfect Life possesses only a part of happiness, as he possesses happiness only potentially; but that he who possesses the perfect Life in actuality, and he who has succeeded in identifying himself with it, alone is happy. All the other things, no more than envelope him (as the Stoics would say), and could not be considered as parts of him, since they surround him in spite of himself. They would belong to him as parts of himself, if they were joined to him by the result of his will. What is the Good for a man who finds himself in this condition? By the perfect life which he possesses, he himself is his own good. The principle (the Good in itself) which is superior (to the perfect Life) is the cause of the good which is in him; for we must not confuse the Good in itself—and the good in man.

WE KNOW WE HAVE REACHED HAPPINESS WHEN WE NO MORE DESIRE ANYTHING.

That the man who has achieved perfect Life possesses happiness is proved by his no longer desiring anything. What more could he desire? He could not desire anything inferior; he is united to the best; he, therefore, has fullness of life. If he be virtuous he is fully happy, and fully possesses the Good, for no good thing escapes him. What he seeks is sought only by necessity, less for him than for some of the things which belong to him. He seeks it for the body that is united to him; and though this body be endowed with life, what relates to his needs is not characteristic of the real man. The latter knows it, and what he grants to his body, he grants without in any way departing from his own characteristic life. His happiness will, therefore, not be diminished in adversity, because he continues to possess veritable life. If he lose relatives or friends, he knows the nature of death, and besides those whom it strikes down know it also if they were virtuous. Though he may allow himself to be afflicted by the fate of these relatives or friends, the affliction will not reach the intimate part of his nature; the affliction will be felt only by that part of the soul which lacks reason, and whose suffering the man will not share.

MEN MUST SEEK THEIR HAPPINESS IN THAT OF EACH OF THE PARTS OF THEIR NATURE.

5. It has often been objected that we should reckon with the bodily pains, the diseases, the obstacles which may hinder action, cases of unconsciousness, which might result from certain philtres and diseases (as the Peripatetics objected). Under these conditions, they say, the sage could not live well, and be happy—without either mentioning poverty and lack of recognition. All these evils, not forgetting the famous misfortunes of Priam, justify serious objections. Indeed, even if the sage endured all these evils (as indeed he easily does), they would none the less be contrary to his will; and happy life must necessarily be one that conforms to our will. The sage is not only a soul endowed with particular dispositions; the body also must be comprised within his personality (as also thought the Pythagorean Archytas). This assertion seems reasonable so far as the passions of the body are felt by the man himself, and as they suggest desires and aversions to him. If then pleasure be an element of happiness, how could the man afflicted by the blows of fate and by pains still be happy, even if he were virtuous? To be happy, the divinities need only to enjoy perfect life; but men, having their soul united to a lower part, must seek their happiness in the life of each of these two parts that compose him, and not exclusively in one of the two, even though it were the higher. Indeed, as soon as one of them suffers, the other one, in spite of its superiority, finds its actions hindered. Otherwise we shall have to regard neither the body, nor the sensations that flow from it; and to seek only what by itself could suffice to procure happiness, independently of the body.

NECESSARY THINGS ARE THOSE WHOSE POSSESSION IS UNCONSCIOUS.

6. If our exposition of the subject had defined happiness as exemption from pain, sickness, reverses, and great misfortunes, (we would have implied that) it would be impossible for us to taste happiness while exposed to one of those evils. But if happiness consist in the possession of the real good, why should we forget this good to consider its accessories? Why, in the appreciation of this good, should we seek things which are not among the number of its elements? If it consisted in a union of the true goods with those things which alone are necessary to our needs, or which are so called, even without being such, we should have to strive to possess the latter also. But as the goal of man must be single and not manifold—for otherwise it would be usual to say that he seeks his ends, rather than the more common expression, his end—we shall have to seek only what is most high and precious, what the soul somehow wishes to include. Her inclination and will cannot aspire to anything which is not the sovereign good. Reason only avoids certain evils, and seeks certain advantages, because it is provoked by their presence; but it is not so led by nature. The principal tendency of the soul is directed towards what is best; when she possesses it, she is satisfied, and stops; only then does she enjoy a life really conformable to her will. Speaking of will strictly, and not with unjustifiable license, the task of the will is not to procure things necessary to our needs (?) Of course we judge that it is suitable to procure things that are necessary, as we in general avoid evils. But the avoiding of them is no aim desirable in itself; such would rather be not to need to avoid them. This, for instance, occurs when one possesses health and is exempt from suffering. Which of these advantages most attracts us? So long as we enjoy health, so long as we do not suffer, it is little valued. Now advantages which, when present, have no attraction for the soul, and add nothing to her happiness, and which, when absent, are sought as causes of the suffering arising from the presence of their contraries, should reasonably be called necessity rather than goods, and not be reckoned among the elements of our goal. When they are absent and replaced by their contraries, our goal remains just what it was.

EVILS WHICH THE WISE MAN CAN SUPPORT WITHOUT DISTURBANCE OF HIS HAPPINESS.

7. Why then does the happy man desire to enjoy the presence of these advantages, and the absence of their contraries? It must be because they contribute, not to his happiness, but to his existence; because their contraries tend to make him lose existence, hindering the enjoyment of the good, without however removing it. Besides, he who possesses what is best wishes to possess it purely, without any mixture. Nevertheless, when a foreign obstacle occurs, the good still persists even in spite of this obstacle. In short, if some accident happen to the happy man against his will, his happiness is in no way affected thereby. Otherwise, he would change and lose his happiness daily; as if, for instance, he had to mourn a son, or if he lost some of his possessions. Many events may occur against his wish without disturbing him in the enjoyment of the good he has attained. It may be objected that it is the great misfortunes, and not trifling accidents (which can disturb the happiness of the wise man). Nevertheless, in human things, is there any great enough not to be scorned by him who has climbed to a principle superior to all, and who no longer depends on lower things? Such a man will not be able to see anything great in the favors of fortune, whatever they be, as in being king, in commanding towns, or peoples; in founding or building cities, even though he himself should receive that glory; he will attach no importance to the loss of his power, or even to the ruin of his fatherland. If he consider all that as a great evil, or even only as an evil, he will have a ridiculous opinion. He will no longer be a virtuous man; for, as Jupiter is my witness, he would be highly valuing mere wood, or stones, birth, or death; while he should insist on the incontestable truth that death is better than the corporeal life (as held by Herodotus). Even though he were sacrificed, he would not consider death any worse merely because it occurred at the feet of the altars. Being buried is really of small importance, for his body will rot as well above as below ground (as thought Theodorus of Cyrene). Neither will he grieve at being buried without pomp and vulgar ostentation, and to have seemed unworthy of being placed in a magnificent tomb. That would be smallness of mind. If he were carried off as a captive, he would still have a road open to leave life, in the case that he should no longer be allowed to hope for happiness. (Nor would he be troubled if the members of his family, such as sons (?) and daughters (and female relatives?) were carried off into captivity. If he had arrived to the end of his life without seeing such occurrences (we would indeed be surprised). Would he leave this world supposing that such things cannot happen? Such an opinion would be absurd. Would he not have realized that his own kindred were exposed to such dangers? The opinion that such things could happen will not make him any less happy. No, he will be happy even with that belief. He would still be so even should that occur; he will indeed reflect that such is the nature of this world, that one must undergo such accidents, and submit. Often perhaps men dragged into captivity will live better (than in liberty); and besides, if their captivity be insupportable, it is in their power to release themselves. If they remain, it is either because their reason so induces them—and then their lot cannot be too hard; or it is against the dictates of their reason, in which case they have none but themselves to blame. The wise man, therefore, will not be unhappy because of the folly of his own people; he will not allow his lot to depend on the happiness or misfortunes of other people.

NO MISFORTUNE IS TOO GREAT TO BE CONQUERED BY VIRTUE.

8. If the griefs that he himself undergoes are great, he will support them as well as he can; if they exceed his power of endurance, they will carry him off (as thought Seneca). In either case, he will not, in the midst of his sufferings, excite any pity: (ever master of his reason) he will not allow his own characteristic light to be extinguished. Thus the flame in the lighthouse continues to shine, in spite of the raging of the tempest, in spite of the violent blowing of the winds. (He should not be upset) even by loss of consciousness, or even if pain becomes so strong that its violence could almost annihilate him. If pain become more intense, he will decide as to what to do; for, under these circumstances, freedom of will is not necessarily lost (for suicide remains possible, as thought Seneca). Besides, we must realize that these sufferings do not present themselves to the wise man, under the same light as to the common man; that all these need not penetrate to the sanctuary of the man’s life; which indeed happens with the greater part of pains, griefs and evils that we see being suffered by others; it would be proof of weakness to be affected thereby. A no less manifest mark of weakness is to consider it an advantage to ignore all these evils, and to esteem ourselves happy that they happen only after death, without sympathizing with the fate of others, and thinking only to spare ourselves some grief. This would be a weakness that we should eliminate in ourselves, not allowing ourselves to be frightened by the fear of what might happen. The objection that it is natural to be afflicted at the misfortunes of those who surround us, meets the answer that, to begin with, it is not so with every person; then, that it is part of the duty of virtue to ameliorate the common condition of human nature, and to raise it to what is more beautiful, rising above the opinions of the common people. It is indeed beautiful not to yield to what the common people usually consider to be evils. We should struggle against the blows of fortune not by affected ignoring (of difficulties, like an ostrich), but as a skillful athlete who knows that the dangers he is incurring are feared by certain natures, though a nature such as his bears them easily, seeing in them nothing terrible, or at least considering them terrifying only to children. Certainly, the wise man would not have invited these evils; but on being overtaken by them he opposes to them the virtue which renders the soul unshakable and impassible.

WISDOM IS NONE THE LESS HAPPY FOR BEING UNCONSCIOUS OF ITSELF.

9. It may further be objected that the wise man might lose consciousness, if overwhelmed by disease, or the malice of magic. Would he still remain happy? Either he will remain virtuous, being only fallen asleep; in which case he might continue to be happy, since no one claims he must lose happiness because of sleep, inasmuch as no reckoning of the time spent in this condition is kept, and as he is none the less considered happy for life. On the other hand, if unconsciousness be held to terminate virtue, the question at issue is given up; for, supposing that he continues to be virtuous, the question at issue was, whether he remain happy so long as he remains virtuous. It might indeed still be objected that he cannot be happy if he remain virtuous without feeling it, without acting in conformity with virtue. Our answer is that a man would not be any less handsome or healthy for being so unconsciously. Likewise, he would not be any less wise merely for lack of consciousness thereof.

THOUGH HAPPINESS IS ACTUALIZED WISDOM WE DO NOT LOSE IT WHEN UNCONSCIOUS. WE DO NOT LOSE IT BECAUSE WE OURSELVES ARE ACTUALIZATIONS OF INTELLIGENCE.

Once more it may be objected that it is essential to wisdom to be self-conscious, for happiness resides only in actualized wisdom. This objection would hold if reason and wisdom were incidentals. But if the hypostatic substance of wisdom consist in an essence (being), or rather, in being itself, and if this being do not perish during sleep, nor during unconsciousness, if consequently the activity of being continue to subsist in him; if by its very nature this (being) ceaselessly watch, then the virtuous man must even in this state (of sleep or unconsciousness), continue to exercise his activity. Besides, this activity is ignored only by one part of himself, and not by himself entirely. Thus during the operation of the actualization of growth, the perception of its activity is not by his sensibility transmitted to the rest of the man. If our personality were constituted by this actualization of growth, we would act simultaneously with it; but we are not this actualization, but that of the intellectual principle, and that is why we are active simultaneously with this (divine intellectual activity).

INTELLIGENCE IS NOT DEPENDENT ON CONSCIOUSNESS.

10. The reason that intelligence remains hidden is just because it is not felt; only by the means of this feeling can this activity be felt; but why should intelligence cease to act (merely because it was not felt)? On the other hand, why could the soul not have turned her activity towards intelligence before having felt or perceived it? Since (for intelligence) thinking and existence are identical, perception must have been preceded by some actualization. It seems impossible for perception to arise except when thought reflects upon itself, and when the principle whose activity constitutes the life of the soul, so to speak, turns backwards, and reflects, as the image of an object placed before a brilliant polished mirror reflects itself therein. Likewise, if the mirror be placed opposite the object, there is no more image; and if the mirror be withdrawn or badly adjusted, there is no more image, though the luminous object continue to act. Likewise, when that faculty of the soul which represents to us the images of discursive reason and of intelligence is in a suitable condition of calm, we get an intuition—that is, a somewhat sensual perception thereof—with the prior knowledge of the activity of the intelligence, and of discursive reason. When, however, this image is troubled by an agitation in the mutual harmony of the organs, the discursive reason, and the intelligence continue to act without any image, and the thought does not reflect in the imagination. Therefore we shall have to insist that thought is accompanied by an image without, nevertheless, being one itself. While we are awake, it often happens to us to perform praiseworthy things, to meditate and to act, without being conscious of these operations at the moment that we produce them. When for instance we read something, we are not necessarily self-conscious that we are reading, especially if our attention be fully centered on what we read. Neither is a brave man who is performing a courageous deed, self-conscious of his bravery. There are many other such cases. It would therefore seem that the consciousness of any deed weakens its energy, and that when the action is alone (without that consciousness) it is in a purer, livelier and more vital condition. When virtuous men are in that condition (of absence of self-consciousness), their life is more intense because it concentrates in itself instead of mingling with feeling.

THE ONLY OBJECT OF THE VIRTUOUS WILL IS THE CONVERSION OF THE SOUL TOWARDS HERSELF.

11. It has sometimes been said that a man in such a condition does not really live. (If such be their honest opinion), they must be told that he does live, even if they be incapable of understanding his happiness and his life. If this seem to them incredible, they should reflect whether their own admission that such a man lives and is virtuous, does not imply that under those circumstances he is happy. Neither should they begin by supposing that he is annihilated, only later to consider whether he be happy. Neither should they confine themselves to externalities after having admitted that he turns his whole attention on things that he bears within himself; in short, not to believe that the goal of his will inheres in external objects. Indeed, such considering of external objects as the goal of the will of the virtuous man, would be tantamount to a denial of the very essence (being) of happiness; likewise, insisting that those are the objects he desires. His wish would undoubtedly be that all men should be happy, and that none of them should suffer any evil; but, nevertheless, he is none the less happy when that does not happen. Other people, again, would say that it was unreasonable for the virtuous man to form such an (impossible) wish, since elimination of evils here below is out of the question. This, however, would constitute an admission of our belief that the only goal of the virtuous man’s will is the conversion of the soul towards herself.

THE PLEASURES CLAIMED FOR THE VIRTUOUS MAN ARE OF A HIGHER KIND.

12. We grant, however, that the pleasures claimed for the virtuous man are neither those sought by debauchees, nor those enjoyed by the body. Those pleasures could not be predicated of him without degrading his felicity. Nor can we claim for him raptures of delight—for what would be their use? It is sufficient to suppose that the virtuous man tastes the pleasures attached to the presence of goods, pleasures which must consist neither in motions, nor be accidental. He enjoys the presence of those (higher) goods because he is present to himself; from that time on he lingers in a state of sweet serenity. The virtuous man, therefore, is always serene, calm, and satisfied. If he be really virtuous, his state cannot be troubled by any of the things that we call evils. Those who in the virtuous life are seeking for pleasures of another kind are actually seeking something else than the virtuous life.

IN THE VIRTUOUS MAN THE PART THAT SUFFERS IS THE HIGHER; THEREFORE HE REALLY DOES NOT SUFFER AS DO THOSE WHO SUFFER CHIEFLY PHYSICALLY.

13. The actions of the virtuous man could not be hindered by fortune, but they may vary with the fluctuations of fortune. All will be equally beautiful, and, perhaps, so much the more beautiful as the virtuous man will find himself placed amidst more critical circumstances. Any acts that concern contemplation, which relate to particular things, will be such that the wise man will be able to produce them, after having carefully sought and considered what he is to do. Within himself he finds the most infallible of the rules of conduct, a rule that will never fail him, even were he within the oft-discussed bull of Phalaris. It is useless for the vulgar man to repeat, even twice or thrice, that such a fate is sweet; for if a man were to utter those words, they are uttered by that very (animal) part that undergoes those tortures. On the contrary, in the virtuous man, the part that suffers is different from that which dwells within itself, and which, while necessarily residing within itself, is never deprived of the contemplation of the universal Good.

MAN BECOMES WISE BY ESTABLISHING A SPIRITUAL PREPONDERANCE.

14. Man, and specially the virtuous man, is constituted not by the composite of soul and body, as is proved by the soul’s power to separate herself from the body, and to scorn what usually are called “goods.” It would be ridiculous to relate happiness to the animal part of man, since happiness consists in living well, and living well, being an actualization, belongs to the soul, exclusively. Not even does it extend to the entire soul, for happiness does not extend to that part of the soul concerned with growth, having nothing in common with the body, neither as to its size, nor its possible good condition. Nor does it depend on the perfection of the senses, because their development, as well as that of the organs, weights man down, and makes him earthy. Doing good will be made easier by establishing a sort of counter-weight, weakening the body, and taming its motions, so as to show how much the real man differs from the foreign things that (to speak as do the Stoics), surround him. However much the (earthy) common man enjoy beauty, greatness, wealth, command over other men, and earthly luxuries, he should not be envied for the deceptive pleasure he takes in all these advantages. To begin with, the wise man will probably not possess them; but if he do possess them, he will voluntarily diminish them, if he take due care of himself. By voluntary negligence he will weaken and disfigure the advantages of his body. He will abdicate from dignities. While preserving the health of his body, he will not desire to be entirely exempt from disease and sufferings. If he never experienced these evils, he will wish to make a trial of them during his youth. But when he has arrived at old age, he will no longer wish to be troubled either by pains, or pleasures, or anything sad or agreeable that relates to the body; so as not to be forced to give it his attention. He will oppose the sufferings he will have to undergo with a firmness that will never forsake him. He will not believe that his happiness is increased by pleasures, health or rest, nor destroyed nor diminished by their contraries. As the former advantages do not augment his felicity, how could their loss diminish it?

TWO WISE MEN WILL BE EQUALLY HAPPY, IN SPITE OF DIFFERENCES OF FORTUNE.

15. Let us now imagine two wise men, the first of whom possesses everything that heart can wish for, while the other is in a contrary position. Shall they be said to be equally happy? Yes, if they be equally wise. Even if the one possessed physical beauty, and all the other advantages that do not relate either to wisdom, virtue, contemplation of the good, or perfect life; what would be the use of all that since he who possesses all these advantages is not considered as really being happier than he who lacks them? Such wealth would not even help a flute-player to accomplish his object! We, however, consider the happy man only from the standpoint of the weakness of our mind, considering as serious and frightful what the really happy man considers indifferent. For the man could not be wise, nor consequently happy, so long as he has not succeeded in getting rid of all these vain ideas, so long as he has not entirely transformed himself, so long as he does not within himself contain the confidence that he is sheltered from all evil. Only then will he live without being troubled by any fear. The only thing that should affect him, would be the fear that he is not an expert in wisdom, that he is only partly wise. As to unforeseen fears that might get the better of him before he had had the time to reflect, during a moment of abstraction of attention, the wise man will hasten to turn them away, treating that which within himself becomes agitated as a child that has lost its way through pain. He will tranquilize it either by reason, or even by a threat, though uttered without passion. Thus the mere sight of a worthy person suffices to calm a child. Besides, the wise man will not hold aloof either from friendship nor gratitude. He will treat his own people as he treats himself; giving to his friends as much as to his own person; and he will give himself up to friendship, without ceasing to exercise intelligence therein.

THE WISE MAN REMAINS UNATTACHED.

16. If the virtuous man were not located in this elevated life of intelligence; if on the contrary he were supposed to be subject to the blows of fate, and if we feared that they would overtake him, our ideal would no longer be that of the virtuous man such as we outline it; we would be considering a vulgar man, mingled with good and evil, of whom a life equally mingled with good and evil would be predicated. Even such a man might not easily be met with, and besides, if we did meet him, he would not deserve to be called a wise man; for there would be nothing great about him, neither the dignity of wisdom, nor the purity of good. Happiness, therefore, is not located in the life of the common man. Plato rightly says that you have to leave the earth to ascend to the good, and that to become wise and happy, one should turn one’s look towards the only Good, trying to acquire resemblance to Him, and to live a life conformable to Him. That indeed must suffice the wise man to reach his goal. To the remainder he should attach no more value than to changes of location, none of which can add to his happiness. If indeed he pay any attention to external things scattered here and there around him, it is to satisfy the needs of his body so far as he can. But as he is something entirely different from the body, he is never disturbed at having to leave it; and he will abandon it whenever nature will have indicated the time. Besides, he always reserves to himself the right to deliberate about this (time to leave the world by suicide). Achievement of happiness will indeed be his chief goal; nevertheless, he will also act, not only in view of his ultimate goal, or himself, but on the body to which he is united. He will care for this body, and will sustain it as long as possible. Thus a musician uses his lyre so long as he can; but as soon as it is beyond using, he repairs it, or abandons playing the lyre, because he now can do without it. Leaving it on the ground, he will look at it almost with scorn, and will sing without its accompaniment. Nevertheless it will not have been in vain that this lyre will have been originally given to him; for he will often have profited by its use.


Ennead 1.5. Does Happiness Increase With Time?

HAPPINESS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH DURATION OF TIME.

1. Does happiness increase with duration of time? No: for the feeling of happiness exists only in the present. The memory of past happiness could not add anything to happiness itself. Happiness is not a word, but a state of soul. But a state of soul is a present (experience), such as, for instance, the actualization of life.

HAPPINESS IS NOT THE SATISFACTION OF THE DESIRE TO LIVE.

2. Might happiness not be the satisfaction of the desire of living and activity, inasmuch as this desire is ever present with us? (Hardly). First, according to this hypothesis, the happiness of to-morrow would ever be greater than that of to-day, and that of the following day than that of the day before, and so on to infinity. In this case, the measure of happiness would no longer be virtue (but duration). Then, the beatitude of the divinities will also have to become greater from day to day; it would no longer be perfect, and could never become so. Besides, desire finds its satisfaction in the possession of what is present, both now, and in the future. So long as these present circumstances exist, their possession constitutes happiness. Further, as the desire of living can be no more than the desire to exist, the latter desire can refer to the present only, inasmuch as real existence (essence) inheres only in the present. Desire for a future time, or for some later event, means no more than a desire to preserve what one already possesses. Desire refers neither to the future nor the past, but to what exists at present. What is sought is not a perpetual progression in the future, but the enjoyment of what exists from the present moment onward.

INCREASED HAPPINESS WOULD RESULT ONLY FROM MORE PERFECT GRASP.

3. What shall be said of him who lived happily during a longer period, who has longer contemplated the same spectacle? If such longer contemplation resulted in a clearer idea thereof, the length of time has served some useful purpose; but if the agent contemplated it in the same manner for the whole extent of time, he possesses no advantage over him who contemplated it only once.

PLEASURE IS UNCONNECTED WITH HAPPINESS.

4. It might be objected that the former of these men enjoyed pleasure longer than the other. This consideration has nothing to do with happiness. If by this (enjoyed) pleasure we mean the free exercise (of intelligence), the pleasure referred to is then identical with the happiness here meant. This higher pleasure referred to is only to possess what is here ever present; what of it is past is of no further value.

LENGTH OF HAPPINESS DOES NOT AFFECT ITS QUALITY.

5. Would equal happiness be predicated of three men, one who had been happy from his life’s beginning to its end, the other only at its end, and the third, who had been happy, but who ceased being such. This comparison is not between three men who are happy, but between one man who is happy, with two who are deprived of happiness, and that at the (present moment) when happiness (counts most). If then one of them have any advantage, he possesses it as a man actually happy compared with such as are not; he therefore surpasses the two others by the actual possession of happiness.

IF UNHAPPINESS INCREASE WITH TIME, WHY SHOULD NOT HAPPINESS DO SO?

6. (It is generally agreed that) all calamities, sufferings, griefs and similar evils are aggravated in proportion to their duration. If then, in all these cases, evil be increased with time, why should not the same circumstance obtain in the contrary case? Why should happiness also not be increased? Referring to griefs and sufferings, it might reasonably be said that they are increased by duration. When, for example, sickness is prolonged, and becomes a habitual condition, the body suffers more and more profoundly as time goes on. If, however, evil ever remain at the same degree, it does not grow worse, and there is no need of complaining but of the present. Consideration of the past evil amounts to considering the traces left by evil, the morbid disposition whose intensity is increased by time, because its seriousness is proportionate to its duration. In this case it is not the length of time, but the aggravation of the evil which adds to the misfortune. But the new degree (of intensity) does not subsist simultaneously with the old, and it is unreasonable to predicate an increase as summation of what is no more to what now is. On the contrary, it is the fixed characteristic of happiness to have a fixed term, to remain ever the same. Here also the only increase possibly due to duration of time depends on the relation between an increase in virtue and one in happiness; and the element to be reckoned with here is not the number of years of happiness, but the degree of virtue finally acquired.

AS ADDITION IS POSSIBLE WITH TIME, WHY CANNOT HAPPINESS INCREASE?

7. It might be objected that it is inconsistent to consider the present only, exclusive of the past (as in the case of happiness), when we do not do so in respect of time. For the addition of past to present unquestionably lengthens time. If then we may properly say that time becomes longer, why may we not say the same of happiness?—Were we to do so, we would be applying happiness to divisions of time, while it is precisely to bring out the indivisibility of happiness that it is considered to be measured by the present exclusively. While considering time, in respect of things that have vanished, such as, for instance, the dead, it is perfectly reasonable to reckon the past; but it would be unreasonable to compare past happiness with present happiness in respect to duration, because it would be treating happiness as something accidental and temporary. Whatever might be the length of time that preceded the present, all that can be said of it is, that it is no more. To regard duration while considering happiness is to try to disperse and fraction something that is one and indivisible, something that exists only in the present. That is why time is called an image of eternity, inasmuch as it tends to destroy eternity’s permanence through its own dispersion. By abstracting permanence from eternity, and appropriating it, time destroys eternity; for a short period, permanence may survive in association with time; but as soon as it becomes fused with it, eternity perishes. Now as happiness consists in the enjoyment of a life that is good, namely in that which is proper to Essence (in itself), because none better exists, it must, instead of time, have, as a measure, eternity itself, a principle which admits neither increase nor diminution, which cannot be compared to any length, whose nature it is to be indivisible, and superior to time. No comparison, therefore, should be instituted between essence and non-essence, eternity and time, the perpetual and the eternal; nor should extension be predicated of the indivisible. If we regard existence of Essence in itself, it will be necessary to regard it entire; to consider it, not as the perpetuity of time, but as the very life of eternity, a life which instead of consisting of a series of centuries, exists entire since all centuries.

NOT EVEN MEMORIES OF THE PAST INCREASE HAPPINESS.

8. Somebody might object that by subsisting till the present, the memory of the past adds something more to him who has long lived happily. In this case it will be necessary to examine what is meant by this memory. If it mean the memory of former wisdom, and if it mean that he who would possess this memory would become wiser on account of it, then this memory differs from our question (which studies happiness, and not wisdom). If it mean the memory of pleasure, it would imply that the happy man has need of much pleasure, and cannot remain satisfied with what is present. Besides, there is no proof that the memory of a past pleasure is at all pleasant; on the contrary, it would be entirely ridiculous to remember with delight having tasted a delicious dish the day before, and still more ridiculous remembering such an enjoyment ten years ago. It would be just as ridiculous to pride one self on having been a wise man last year.

NOT EVEN THE MEMORY OF VIRTUE INCREASES HAPPINESS.

9. Could not the memory of virtuous actions contribute to happiness? No: for such a memory cannot exist in a man who has no virtue at present, and who thereby is driven to seek out the memory of past virtues.

LENGTH OF TIME IS OF NO IMPORTANCE, NOT EVEN AS OPPORTUNITY OF VIRTUE.

10. Another objection is that length of time would give opportunity for doing many beautiful deeds; while this opportunity is denied him who lives happily only a short period. This may be answered by denying happiness to a man on the grounds of having done many beautiful deeds. If several parts of time and several actions are to constitute happiness, then it would be constituted by things that are no more, that are past, and by present things; whereas our definition of happiness limits it exclusively to the present. Then we considered whether length of time add to happiness. There remains only to examine whether happiness of long duration be superior because of yielding opportunities of doing more beautiful deeds. To begin with, the man who is inactive may be just as happy, if not more happy than he who is active. Besides, it is not actions themselves which yield happiness; (the sources of happiness) are states of mind, which are the principles of beautiful actions. The wise man enjoys welfare while active, but not because of this activity; he derives (this welfare) not from contingent things, but from what he possesses in himself. For it might happen even to a vicious man to save his fatherland, or to feel pleasure in seeing it saved by some other. It is not then these activities which are the causes of the enjoyment of happiness. True beatitude and the joys it yields must be derived from the constant disposition of the soul. To predicate it of activity, would be to make it depend on things alien to virtue and the soul. The soul’s actualization consists in being wise, and in exercising her self-activity; this is true happiness.


Ennead 1.6. Of Beauty.

REVIEW OF BEAUTY OF DAILY LIFE.

1. Beauty chiefly affects the sense of sight. Still, the ear perceives it also, both in the harmony of words, and in the different kinds of music; for songs and verses are equally beautiful. On rising from the domain of the senses to a superior region, we also discover beauty in occupations, actions, habits, sciences and virtues. Whether there exists a type of beauty still higher, will have to be ascertained by discussion.

PROBLEMS CONCERNING HIGHER BEAUTY.

What is the cause that certain bodies seem beautiful, that our ears listen with pleasure to rhythms judged beautiful, and that we love the purely moral beauties? Does the beauty of all these objects derive from some unique, immutable principle, or will we recognize some one principle of beauty for the body, and some other for something else? What then are these principles, if there are several? Or which is this principle, if there is but one?

WHAT IS THE PRINCIPLE BY PARTICIPATION IN WHICH THE BODY IS BEAUTIFUL?

First, there are certain objects, such as bodies, whose beauty exists only by participation, instead of being inherent in the very essence of the subject. Such are beautiful in themselves, as is, for example, virtue. Indeed, the same bodies seem beautiful at one time, while at another they lack beauty; consequently, there is a great difference between being a body and being beautiful. What then is the principle whose presence in a body produces beauty therein? What is that element in the bodies which moves the spectator, and which attracts, fixes and charms his glances? This is the first problem to solve; for, on finding this principle, we shall use it as a means to resolve other questions.

POLEMIC AGAINST SYMMETRY, THE STOIC DEFINITION OF BEAUTY.

(The Stoics), like almost everybody, insist that visual beauty consists in the proportion of the parts relatively to each other and to the whole, joined to the grace of colors. If then, as in this case, the beauty of bodies in general consists in the symmetry and just proportion of their parts, beauty could not consist of anything simple, and necessarily could not appear in anything but what was compound. Only the totality will be beautiful; the parts by themselves will possess no beauty; they will be beautiful only by their relation with the totality. Nevertheless, if the totality is beautiful, it would seem also necessary that the parts be beautiful; for indeed beauty could never result from the assemblage of ugly things. Beauty must therefore be spread among all the parts. According to the same doctrine, the colors which, like sunlight, are beautiful, are beautiful but simple, and those whose beauty is not derived from proportion, will also be excluded from the domain of beauty. According to this hypothesis, how will gold be beautiful? The brilliant lightning in the night, even the stars, would not be beautiful to contemplate. In the sphere of sounds, also, it would be necessary to insist that what is simple possesses no beauty. Still, in a beautiful harmony, every sound, even when isolated, is beautiful. While preserving the same proportions, the same countenance seems at one time beautiful, and at another ugly. Evidently, there is but one conclusion: namely, that proportion is not beauty itself, but that it derives its beauty from some superior principle. (This will appear more clearly from further examples). Let us examine occupations and utterances. If also their beauty depended on proportion, what would be the function of proportion when considering occupations, laws, studies and sciences? Relations of proportion could not obtain in scientific speculations; no, nor even in the mutual agreement of these speculations. On the other hand, even bad things may show a certain mutual agreement and harmony; as, for instance, were we to assert that wisdom is softening of the brain, and that justice is a generous folly. Here we have two revoltingly absurd statements, which agree perfectly, and harmonize mutually. Further, every virtue is a soul-beauty far truer than any that we have till now examined; yet it could not admit of proportion, as it involves neither size nor number. Again, granting that the soul is divided into several faculties, who will undertake to decide which combination of these faculties, or of the speculations to which the soul devotes itself, will produce beauty? Moreover (if beauty is but proportion), what beauty could be predicated of pure intelligence?

BEAUTY CONSISTS IN KINSHIP TO THE SOUL.

2. Returning to our first consideration, we shall examine the nature of the element of beauty in bodies. It is something perceivable at the very first glance, something which the soul recognizes as kindred, and sympathetic to her own nature, which she welcomes and assimilates. But as soon as she meets an ugly object, she recoils, repudiates it, and rejects it as something foreign, towards which her real nature feels antipathy. That is the reason why the soul, being such as it is, namely, of an essence superior to all other beings, when she perceives an object kindred to her own nature, or which reveals only some traces of it, rejoices, is transported, compares this object with her own nature, thinks of herself, and of her intimate being as it would be impossible to fail to perceive this resemblance.

BEAUTY CONSISTS IN PARTICIPATION IN A FORM.

How can both sensible and intelligible objects be beautiful? Because, as we said, sensible objects participate in a form. While a shapeless object, by nature capable of receiving shape (physical) and form (intelligible), remains without reason or form, it is ugly. That which remains completely foreign to all divine reason (a reason proceeding from the universal Soul), is absolute ugliness. Any object should be considered ugly which is not entirely molded by informing reason, the matter, not being able to receive perfectly the form (which the Soul gives it). On joining matter, form co-ordinates the different parts which are to compose unity, combines them, and by their harmony produces something which is a unit. Since (form) is one, that which it fashions will also have to be one, as far as a composite object can be one. When such an object has arrived at unity, beauty resides in it, and it communicates itself to the parts as well as to the whole. When it meets a whole, the parts of which are perfectly similar, it interpenetrates it evenly. Thus it would show itself now in an entire building, then in a single stone, later in art-products as well as in the works of nature. Thus bodies become beautiful by communion with (or, participation in) a reason descending upon it from the divine (universal Soul).

THE SOUL APPRECIATES THE BEAUTIFUL BY AN AESTHETIC SENSE.

3. The soul appreciates beauty by an especially ordered faculty, whose sole function it is to appreciate all that concerns beauty, even when the other faculties take part in this judgment. Often the soul makes her (aesthetic) decisions by comparison with the form of the beautiful which is within her, using this form as a standard by which to judge. But what agreement can anything corporeal have with what is incorporeal? For example, how can an architect judge a building placed before him as beautiful, by comparing it with the Idea which he has within himself? The only explanation can be that, on abstracting the stones, the exterior object is nothing but the interior form, no doubt divided within the extent of the matter, but still one, though manifested in the manifold? When the senses perceive in an object the form which combines, unites and dominates a substance which lacks shape, and therefore is of a contrary nature; and if they also perceive a shape which distinguishes itself from the other shapes by its elegance, then the soul, uniting these multiple elements, fuses them, comparing them to the indivisible form which she bears within herself, then she pronounces their agreement, kinship and harmony with that interior type.

INSTANCES OF CORRESPONDENCE OF OUTER SENSE BEAUTY WITH ITS IDEA.

Thus a worthy man, perceiving in a youth the character of virtue, is agreeably impressed, because he observes that the youth harmonizes with the true type of virtue which he bears within himself. Thus also the beauty of color, though simple in form, reduces under its sway that obscurity of matter, by the presence of the light, which is something incorporeal, a reason, and a form. Likewise, fire surpasses all other bodies in beauty, because it stands to all other elements in the relation of a form; it occupies the highest regions;it is the subtlest of bodies because it most approaches the incorporeal beings; without permitting itself to be penetrated by other bodies, it penetrates them all; without itself cooling, it communicates to them its heat; by its own essence it possesses color, and communicates it to others; it shines and coruscates, because it is a form. The body in which it does not dominate, shows but a discolored hue, and ceases being beautiful, merely because it does not participate in the whole form of color. Once more, thus do the hidden harmonies of sound produce audible harmonies, and also yield to the soul the idea of beauty, though showing it in another order of things. Audible harmonies can be expressed in numbers; not indeed in any kind of numbers, but only in such as can serve to produce form, and to make it dominate.

TRANSITION FROM SENSE BEAUTY TO INTELLECTUAL BEAUTY.

So much then for sense-beauties which, descending on matter like images and shadows, beautify it and thereby compel our admiration. 4. Now we shall leave the senses in their lower sphere, and we shall rise to the contemplation of the beauties of a superior order, of which the senses have no intuition, but which the soul perceives and expresses.

INTERIOR BEAUTIES COULD NOT BE APPRECIATED WITHOUT AN INTERIOR MODEL.

Just as we could not have spoken of sense-beauties if we had never seen them, nor recognized them as such, if, in respect to them, we had been similar to persons born blind, likewise we would not know enough to say anything about the beauty either of the arts or sciences, or of anything of the kind, if we were not already in possession of this kind of beauty; nor of the splendor of virtue, if we had not contemplated the (“golden) face of Justice,” and of temperance, before whose splendor the morning and evening stars grow pale.

MORAL BEAUTIES MORE DELIGHTFUL THAN SENSE-BEAUTIES.

To see these beauties, they must be contemplated by the faculty our soul has received; then, while contemplating them, we shall experience far more pleasure, astonishment and admiration, than in contemplation of the sense-beauties, because we will have the intuition of veritable beauties. The sentiments inspired by beauty are admiration, a gentle charm, desire, love, and a pleasurable impulse.

THEY WHO FEEL THESE SENTIMENTS MOST KEENLY ARE CALLED LOVERS.

Such are the sentiments for invisible beauties which should be felt, and indeed are experienced by all souls, but especially by the most loving. In the presence of beautiful bodies, all indeed see them; but not all are equally moved. Those who are most moved are designated “lovers.”

THE CAUSE OF THESE EMOTIONS IS THE INVISIBLE SOUL.

5. Let us now propound a question about experiences to these men who feel love for incorporeal beauties. What do you feel in presence of the noble occupations, the good morals, the habits of temperance, and in general of virtuous acts and sentiments, and of all that constitutes the beauty of souls? What do you feel when you contemplate your inner beauty? What is the source of your ecstasies, or your enthusiasms? Whence come your desires to unite yourselves to your real selves, and to refresh yourselves by retirement from your bodies? Such indeed are the experiences of those who love genuinely. What then is the object which causes these, your emotions? It is neither a figure, nor a color, nor any size; it is that (colorless) invisible soul, which possesses a wisdom equally invisible; this soul in which may be seen shining the splendor of all the virtues, when one discovers in oneself, or contemplates in others, the greatness of character, the justice of the heart, the pure temperance, the imposing countenance of valor, dignity and modesty, proceeding alone firmly, calmly, and imperturbably; and above all, intelligence, resembling the divinity, by its brilliant light. What is the reason that we declare these objects to be beautiful, when we are transported with admiration and love for them? They exist, they manifest themselves, and whoever beholds them will never be able to restrain himself from confessing them to be veritable beings. Now what are these genuine beings? They are beautiful.

LOVE OF BEAUTY EXPLAINED BY AVERSION FOR OPPOSITE.

But reason is not yet satisfied; reason wonders why these veritable beings give the soul which experiences them the property of exciting love, from which proceeds this halo of light which, so to speak, crowns all virtues. Consider the things contrary to these beautiful objects, and with them compare what may be ugly in the soul. If we can discover of what ugliness consists, and what is its cause, we shall have achieved an important element of the solution we are seeking. Let us picture to ourselves an ugly soul; she will be given up to intemperance; and be unjust, abandoned to a host of passions, troubled, full of fears caused by her cowardliness, and of envy by her degradation; she will be longing only for vile and perishable things; she will be entirely depraved, will love nothing but impure wishes, will have no life but the sensual, and will take pleasure in her turpitude. Would we not explain such a state by saying that under the very mask of beauty turpitude had invaded this soul, brutalized her, soiled her with all kinds of vices, rendering her incapable of a pure life, and pure sentiments, and had reduced her to an existence obscure, infected with evil, poisoned by lethal germs; that it had hindered her from contemplating anything she should, forcing her to remain solitary, because it misled her out from herself towards inferior and gloomy regions? The soul fallen into this state of impurity, seized with an irresistible inclination towards the things of sense, absorbed by her intercourse with the body, sunk into matter, and having even received it within herself, has changed form by her admixture with an inferior nature. Not otherwise would be a man fallen into slimy mud, who no longer would present to view his primitive beauty, and would exhibit only the appearance of the mud that had defiled him; his ugliness would be derived from something foreign; and to recover his pristine beauty he would have to wash off his defilement, and by purification be restored to what he once was.

UGLINESS IS ONLY A FOREIGN ACCRETION.

We have the right to say that the soul becomes ugly by mingling with the body, confusing herself with it, by inclining herself towards it. For a soul, ugliness consists in being impure, no longer unmingled, like gold tarnished by particles of earth. As soon as this dross is removed, and nothing but gold remains, then again it is beautiful, because separated from every foreign body, and is restored to its unique nature. Likewise the soul, released from the passions begotten by her intercourse with the body when she yields herself too much to it, delivered from exterior impressions, purified from the blemishes contracted from her alliance with the body—that is, reduced to herself, she lays aside that ugliness which is derived from a nature foreign to her.

VIRTUES ARE ONLY PURIFICATIONS.

6. Thus, according to the ancient (Platonic or Empedoclean) maxim, “courage, temperance, all the virtues, nay, even prudence, are but purifications.” The mysteries were therefore wise in teaching that the man who has not been purified will, in hell, dwell at the bottom of a swamp; for everything that is not pure, because of its very perversity, delights in mud, just as we see the impure swine wallow in the mud with delight. And indeed, what would real temperance consist of, if it be not to avoid attaching oneself to the pleasures of the body, and to flee from them as impure, and as only proper for an impure being? What else is courage, unless no longer to fear death, which is mere separation of the soul from the body? Whoever therefore is willing to withdraw from the body could surely not fear death. Magnanimity is nothing but scorn of things here below. Last, prudence is the thought which, detached from the earth, raises the soul to the intelligible world. The purified soul, therefore, becomes a form, a reason, an incorporeal and intellectual essence; she belongs entirely to the divinity, in whom resides the source of the beautiful, and of all the qualities which have affinity with it.

THE SOUL’S WELFARE IS TO RESEMBLE THE DIVINITY.

Restored to intelligence, the soul sees her own beauty increase; indeed, her own beauty consists of the intelligence with its ideas; only when united to intelligence is the soul really isolated from all the remainder. That is the reason that it is right to say that “the soul’s welfare and beauty lie in assimilating herself to the divinity,” because it is the principle of beauty and of the essences; or rather, being is beauty, while the other nature (non-being, matter), is ugliness. This is the First Evil, evil in itself, just as that one (the First Principle) is the good and the beautiful; for good and beauty are identical. Consequently, beauty or good, and evil or ugliness, are to be studied by the same methods. The first rank is to be assigned to beauty, which is identical with the good, and from which is derived the intelligence which is beautiful by itself. The soul is beautiful by intelligence, then, the other things, like actions, and studies, are beautiful by the soul which gives them a form. It is still the soul which beautifies the bodies to which is ascribed this perfection; being a divine essence, and participating in beauty, when she seizes an object, or subjects it to her dominion, she gives to it the beauty that the nature of this object enables it to receive.

APPROACH TO THE GOOD CONSISTS IN SIMPLIFICATION.

We must still ascend to the Good to which every soul aspires. Whoever has seen it knows what I still have to say, and knows the beauty of the Good. Indeed, the Good is desirable for its own sake; it is the goal of our desires. To attain it, we have to ascend to the higher regions, turn towards them, and lay aside the garment which we put on when descending here below; just as, in the (Eleusynian, or Isiac) mysteries, those who are admitted to penetrate into the recesses of the sanctuary, after having purified themselves, lay aside every garment, and advance stark naked.

THE SUPREME PURPOSE OF LIFE IS THE ECSTATICAL VISION OF GOD.

7. Thus, in her ascension towards divinity, the soul advances until, having risen above everything that is foreign to her, she alone with Him who is alone, beholds, in all His simplicity and purity, Him from whom all depends, to whom all aspires, from whom everything draws its existence, life and thought. He who beholds him is overwhelmed with love; with ardor desiring to unite himself with Him, entranced with ecstasy. Men who have not yet seen Him desire Him as the Good; those who have, admire Him as sovereign beauty, struck simultaneously with stupor and pleasure, thrilling in a painless orgasm, loving with a genuine emotion, with an ardor without equal, scorning all other affections, and disdaining those things which formerly they characterized as beautiful. This is the experience of those to whom divinities and guardians have appeared; they reck no longer of the beauty of other bodies. Imagine, if you can, the experiences of those who behold Beauty itself, the pure Beauty, which, because of its very purity, is fleshless and bodiless, outside of earth and heaven. All these things, indeed are contingent and composite, they are not principles, they are derived from Him. What beauty could one still wish to see after having arrived at vision of Him who gives perfection to all beings, though himself remains unmoved, without receiving anything; after finding rest in this contemplation, and enjoying it by becoming assimilated to Him? Being supreme beauty, and the first beauty, He beautifies those who love Him, and thereby they become worthy of love. This is the great, the supreme goal of souls; this is the goal which arouses all their efforts, if they do not wish to be disinherited of that sublime contemplation the enjoyment of which confers blessedness,and privation of which is the greatest of earthly misfortunes. Real misfortune is not to lack beautiful colors, nor beautiful bodies, nor power, nor domination, nor royalty. It is quite sufficient to see oneself excluded from no more than possession of beauty. This possession is precious enough to render worthless domination of a kingdom, if not of the whole earth, of the sea, or even of the heavens—if indeed it were possible, while abandoning and scorning all that (natural beauty), to succeed in contemplating beauty face to face.

THE METHOD TO ACHIEVE ECSTASY IS TO CLOSE THE EYES OF THE BODY.

8. How shall we start, and later arrive at the contemplation of this ineffable beauty which, like the divinity in the mysteries, remains hidden in the recesses of a sanctuary, and does not show itself outside, where it might be perceived by the profane? We must advance into this sanctuary, penetrating into it, if we have the strength to do so, closing our eyes to the spectacle of terrestrial things, without throwing a backward glance on the bodies whose graces formerly charmed us. If we do still see corporeal beauties, we must no longer rush at them, but, knowing that they are only images, traces and adumbrations of a superior principle, we will flee from them, to approach Him of whom they are merely the reflections. Whoever would let himself be misled by the pursuit of those vain shadows, mistaking them for realities, would grasp only an image as fugitive as the fluctuating form reflected by the waters, and would resemble that senseless (Narcissus) who, wishing to grasp that image himself, according to the fable, disappeared, carried away by the current. Likewise he would wish to embrace corporeal beauties, and not release them, would plunge, not his body, but his soul into the gloomy abysses, so repugnant to intelligence; he would be condemned to total blindness; and on this earth, as well as in hell, he would see naught but mendacious shades.

HOW TO FLY TO OUR FATHERLAND.

This indeed is the occasion to quote (from Homer) with peculiar force, “Let us fly unto our dear fatherland!” But how shall we fly? How escape from here? is the question Ulysses asks himself in that allegory which represents him trying to escape from the magic sway of Circe or Calypso, where neither the pleasure of the eyes, nor the view of fleshly beauty were able to hold him in those enchanted places. Our fatherland is the region whence we descend here below. It is there that dwells our Father. But how shall we return thither? What means shall be employed to return us thither? Not our feet, indeed; all they could do would be to move us from one place of the earth to another. Neither is it a chariot, nor ship which need be prepared. All these vain helps must be left aside, and not even considered. We must close the eyes of the body, to open another vision, which indeed all possess, but very few employ.

HOW TO TRAIN THIS INTERIOR VISION.

9. But how shall we train this interior vision?At the moment of its (first) awakening, it cannot contemplate beauties too dazzling. Your soul must then first be accustomed to contemplate the noblest occupations of man, and then the beautiful deeds, not indeed those performed by artists, but those (good deeds) done by virtuous men. Later contemplate the souls of those who perform these beautiful actions. Nevertheless, how will you discover the beauty which their excellent soul possesses? Withdraw within yourself, and examine yourself. If you do not yet therein discover beauty, do as the artist, who cuts off, polishes, purifies until he has adorned his statue with all the marks of beauty. Remove from your soul, therefore, all that is superfluous, straighten out all that is crooked, purify and illuminate what is obscure, and do not cease perfecting your statue until the divine resplendence of virtue shines forth upon your sight, until you see temperance in its holy purity seated in your breast.When you shall have acquired this perfection; when you will see it in yourself; when you will purely dwell within yourself; when you will cease to meet within yourself any obstacle to unity; when nothing foreign will any more, by its admixture, alter the simplicity of your interior essence; when within your whole being you will be a veritable light, immeasurable in size, uncircumscribed by any figure within narrow boundaries, unincreasable because reaching out to infinity, and entirely incommensurable because it transcends all measure and quantity; when you shall have become such, then, having become sight itself, you may have confidence in yourself, for you will no longer need any guide. Then must you observe carefully, for it is only by the eye that then will open itself within you that you will be able to perceive supreme Beauty. But if you try to fix on it an eye soiled by vice, an eye that is impure, or weak, so as not to be able to support the splendor of so brilliant an object, that eye will see nothing, not even if it were shown a sight easy to grasp. The organ of visionwill first have to be rendered analogous and similar to the object it is to contemplate. Never would the eye have seen the sun unless first it had assumed its form;likewise, the soul could never see beauty, unless she herself first became beautiful. To obtain the view of the beautiful, and of the divinity, every man must begin by rendering himself beautiful and divine.

THE LANDMARKS OF THE PATH TO ECSTASY.

Thus he will first rise to intelligence,and he will there contemplate beauty, and declare that all this beauty resides in the Ideas. Indeed, in them everything is beautiful, because they are the daughters and the very essence of Intelligence.

Above intelligence, he will meet Him whom we call the nature of the Good, and who causes beauty to radiate around Him; so that, to repeat, the first thing that is met is beauty. If a distinction is to be established among the intelligibles, we might say that intelligible beauty is the locus of ideas, and that the Good, which is located above the Beautiful, is its source and principle. If, however, we desire to locate the Good and the Beautiful within one single principle, we might regard this one principle first as Good, and only afterwards, as Beauty.


Ennead 1.7. Of the First Good, and of the Other Goods.

THE SUPREME GOOD AS END OF ALL OTHER GOODS.

1. Could any one say that there was, for any being, any good but the activity of “living according to nature?” For a being composed of several parts, however, the good will consist in the activity of its best part, an action which is peculiar, natural, and unfailing. Further: as the soul is an excellent being, and directs her activity towards something excellent, this excellent aim is not merely excellent relatively to the soul, but is the absolute Good. If then there be a principle which does not direct its action towards any other thing, because it is the best of beings, being above them all, it can be this only because all other beings trend towards it. This then, evidently, is the absolute Good by virtue of which all other beings participate therein.

PARTICIPATION IN GOOD. TWO METHODS.

Now there are two methods of participation in the Good: the first, is to become similar to it; the second is to direct one’s activity towards it. If then the direction of one’s desire and one’s action towards the better principle be a good, then can the absolute good itself neither regard nor desire any other thing, remaining in abiding rest, being the source and principle of all actions conforming to nature, giving to other things the form of the Good, without acting on them, as they, on the contrary, direct their actions thereto.

PERMANENCE THE CHIEF NOTE OF ABSOLUTE GOOD.

Only by permanence—not by action, nor even by thought—is this principle the Good. For if it be super-Being, it must also be super-Activity, super-Intelligence, and Thought. The principle from which everything depends, while itself depending on nothing else, must, therefore, be recognized as the Good. (This divinity) must, therefore, persist in His condition, while everything turns towards Him, just as, in a circle, all the radii meet in the center An example of this is the sun, which is a center of the light that is, as it were, suspended from that planet. The light accompanies the sun everywhere, and never parts from it; and even if you wished to separate it on one side, it would not any the less remain concentrated around it.

ALL THINGS DEPEND ON THE GOOD BY UNITY, ESSENCE, AND QUALITY.

2. Let us study the dependence of everything on the Good. The inanimate trends toward the Soul, while the animate Soul trends towards the Good through Intelligence. As far as anything possesses unity, essence or form, it participates in the Good. By its participation in unity, essence and form each being participates in the Good, even though the latter be only an image, for the things in which it participates are only images of unity, essence, and form. For the (first) Soul as she approaches Intelligence, she acquires a life which approaches closer to truth; and she owes this to Intelligence; thus (by virtue of Intelligence) she possesses the form of the Good. To possess the latter, all she needs to do is to turn her looks towards it; for Intelligence is the next after the Good. Therefore, to those to whom it is granted to live, life is the good. Likewise, for those who participate in intelligence, Intelligence is the good. Consequently, such (a being as) joins intelligence to life possesses a double good.

THERE IS NO UNALLOYED EVIL FOR THE LIVING BEING.

3. Though life be a good, it does not belong to all beings. Life is incomplete for the evil person, as for an eye that does not see distinctly; neither accomplish their purpose. If, for us, life, though mingled as it is, be a good, even if an imperfect one, how shall we continue to assert that death is not an evil? But for whom would it be an evil? This we must ask because evil must necessarily be an attribute of somebody. Now there is no more evil for a being which, though even existing, is deprived of life, any more than for a stone (as they say). But if, after death, the being still live, if it be still animate, it will possess good, and so much the more as it exercises its faculties without the body. If it be united to the universal Soul, evidently there can be no evil for it, any more than for the gods who possess good unmingled with evil. Similar is the case of the soul which preserves her purity, inasmuch as he who loses her finds that life, and not death, is the real Evil. If there be chastisements in Hades, again is life an evil for the soul, because she is not pure. If, further, we define life as the union of the soul with the body, and death as their separation, the soul can pass through both these conditions (without, on that account, being unhappy, or losing her hold on the Good).

BY VIRTUE, LIFE CHANGES FROM AN EVIL TO A GOOD.

How is death not an evil, if life be a good? Certainly life is a good for such as possess the Good, (it is a good) not because the soul is united to the body, but because she repels evil by virtue. (Without the latter) death would rather be a good (because it delivers us from the body). To resume: by itself, life in a body is evil; but, by virtue, the soul locates herself in the good, not by perpetuating the existing corporeal union, but by separating herself from the body.


Ennead 1.8. Of the Nature and Origin of Evils.

QUESTIONS TO BE DISCUSSED.

1. Studying the origin of evils that might affect all beings in general, or some one class in particular, it is reasonable to begin by defining evil, from a consideration of its nature. That would be the best way to discover whence it arises, where it resides, to whom it may happen, and in general to decide if it be something real. Which one of our faculties then can inform us of the nature of evil? This question is not easy to solve, because there must be an analogy between the knower and the known. The Intelligence and the Soul may indeed cognize forms and fix their desires on them, because they themselves are forms; but evil, which consists in the absence of all goods, could not be described as a form. But inasmuch as there can be but one single science, to embrace even contraries, and as the evil is the contrary of the good, knowledge of the good implies that of evil. Therefore, to determine the nature of evil, we shall first have to determine that of good, for the higher things must precede the lower, as some are forms and others are not, being rather a privation of the good. Just in what sense evil is the contrary of the good must also be determined; as for instance, if the One be the first, and matter the last; or whether the One be form, and matter be its absence. Of this further.

A. PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EVIL.

A DEFINITION OF EVIL BY CONTRAST WITH THE GOOD.

2. Let us now determine the nature of the Good, at least so far as is demanded by the present discussion. The Good is the principle on which all depends, to which everything aspires, from which everything issues, and of which everything has need. As to Him, He suffices to himself, being complete, so He stands in need of nothing; He is the measure and the end of all things; and from Him spring intelligence, being, soul, life, and intellectual contemplation.

NATURE OF DIVINE INTELLIGENCE.

All these beautiful things exist as far as He does; but He is the one Principle that possesses supreme beauty, a principle that is superior to the things that are best. He reigns royally, in the intelligible world, being Intelligence itself, very differently from what we call human intelligences. The latter indeed are all occupied with propositions, discussions about the meanings of words, reasonings, examinations of the validity of conclusions, observing the concatenation of causes, being incapable of possessing truth “a priori,” and though they be intelligences, being devoid of all ideas before having been instructed by experience; though they, nevertheless, were intelligences. Such is not the primary Intelligence. On the contrary, it possesses all things. Though remaining within itself, it is all things; it possesses all things, without possessing them (in the usual acceptation of that term); the things that subsist in it not differing from it, and not being separated from each other. Each one of them is all the others, is everything and everywhere, although not confounded with other things, and remaining distinct therefrom.

NATURE OF THE UNIVERSAL SOUL.

The power which participates in Intelligence (the universal Soul) does not participate in it in a manner such as to be equal to it, but only in the measure of her ability to participate therein. She is the first actualization of Intelligence, the first being that Intelligence, though remaining within itself, begets. She directs her whole activity towards supreme Intelligence, and lives exclusively thereby. Moving from outside Intelligence, and around it, according to the laws of harmony, the universal Soul fixes her glance upon it. By contemplation penetrating into its inmost depths, through Intelligence she sees the divinity Himself. Such is the nature of the serene and blissful existence of the divinities, a life where evil has no place.

EVIL EXISTS AS A CONSEQUENCE OF THE DERIVATIVE GOODS OF THE THIRD RANK.

If everything stopped there (and if there were nothing beyond the three principles here described), evil would not exist (and there would be nothing but goods). But there are goods of the first, second and third ranks. Though all relate to the King of all things, who is their author, and from whom they derive their goodness, yet the goods of the second rank relate more specially to the second principle; and to the third principle, the goods of the third rank.

NATURE OF EVIL.

3. As these are real beings, and as the first Principle is their superior, evil could not exist in such beings, and still less in Him, who is superior to them; for all these things are good. Evil then must be located in non-being, and must, so to speak, be its form, referring to the things that mingle with it, or have some community with it. This “non-being,” however, is not absolute non-being. Its difference from being resembles the difference between being and movement or rest; but only as its image, or something still more distant from reality. Within this non-being are comprised all sense-objects, and all their passive modifications; or, evil may be something still more inferior, like their accident or principle, or one of the things that contribute to its constitution. To gain some conception of evil it may be represented by the contrast between measure and incommensurability; between indetermination and its goal; between lack of form and the creating principle of form; between lack and self-sufficiency; as the perpetual unlimited and changeableness; as passivity, insatiableness, and absolute poverty. Those are not the mere accidents of evil, but its very essence; all of that can be discovered when any part of evil is examined. The other objects, when they participate in the evil and resemble it, become evil without however being absolute Evil.

EVIL POSSESSES A LOWER FORM OF BEING.

All these things participate in a being; they do not differ from it, they are identical with it, and constitute it. For if evil be an accident in something, then evil, though not being a real being, must be something by itself. Just as, for the good, there is the Good in itself, and the good considered as an attribute of a foreign subject, likewise, for evil, one may distinguish Evil in itself, and evil as accident.

EVIL AS INFINITE AND FORMLESSNESS IN ITSELF.

It might be objected that it is impossible to conceive of indetermination outside of the indeterminate, any more than determination outside of the determinate; or measure outside of the measured. (We shall have to answer that) just as determination does not reside in the determined (or measure in the measured), so indetermination cannot exist within the indeterminate. If it can exist in something other than itself, it will be either in the indeterminate, or in the determinate. If in the indeterminate, it is evident that it itself is indeterminate, and needs no indetermination to become such. If, on the other hand (it be claimed that indetermination exist), in the determinate, (it is evident that) the determinate cannot admit indetermination. This, therefore, demands the existence of something infinite in itself, and formless in itself, which would combine all the characteristics mentioned above as the characteristics of evil. As to evil things, they are such because evil is mingled with them, either because they contemplate evil, or because they fulfill it.

THE PRIMARY EVIL IS EVIL IN ITSELF.

Reason, therefore, forces us to recognize as the primary evil, Evil in itself. (This is matter which is) the subject of figure, form, determination, and limitation; which owes its ornaments to others, which has nothing good in itself, which is but a vain image by comparison with the real beings—in other word, the essence of evil, if such an essence can exist.

MATTER AS THE SECONDARY EVIL.

4. So far as the nature of bodies participates in matter, it is an evil; yet it could not be the primary Evil, for it has a certain form. Nevertheless, this form possesses no reality, and is, besides, deprived of life (?); for bodies corrupt each other mutually. Being agitated by an unregulated movement, they hinder the soul from carrying out her proper movement. They are in a perpetual flux, contrary to the immutable nature of essences; therefore, they constitute the secondary evil.

THE SOUL IS NOT EVIL BY HERSELF, BUT MAY DEGENERATE BY LOOKING AT DARKNESS.

By herself, the soul is not evil, and not every soul is evil. What soul deserves to be so considered? That of the man who, according to the expression of Plato, is a slave to the body. In this man it is natural for the soul to be evil. It is indeed the irrational part of the soul which harbors all that constitutes evil: indetermination, excess, and need, from which are derived intemperance, cowardliness, and all the vices of the soul, the involuntary passions, mothers of false opinions, which lead us to consider the things we seek or avoid as goods or evils. But what produces this evil? How shall we make a cause or a principle of it? To begin with, the soul is neither independent of matter, nor, by herself, perverse. By virtue of her union with the body, which is material, she is mingled with indetermination, and so, to a certain point, deprived of the form which embellishes and which supplies measure. Further, that reason should be hindered in its operations, and cannot see well, must be due to the soul’s being hindered by passions, and obscured by the darkness with which matter surrounds her. The soul inclines towards matter. Thus the soul fixes her glance, not on what is essence, but on what is simple generation. Now the principle of generation is matter, whose nature is so bad that matter communicates it to the beings which, even without being united thereto, merely look at it. Being the privation of good, matter contains none of it, and assimilates to itself all that touches it. Therefore, the perfect Soul, being turned towards ever pure Intelligence, repels matter, indeterminateness, the lack of measure, and in short, evil. The perfect Soul does not approach to it, does not lower her looks; she remains pure and determined by Intelligence. The soul which does not remain in this state, and which issues from herself (to unite with the body), not being determined by the First, the Perfect, is no more than an image of the perfect Soul because she lacks (good), and is filled with indetermination. The soul sees nothing but darkness. The soul already contains matter because she looks at what she cannot see; or, in the every-day expression, because the soul looks at darkness.

PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EVIL FOR THE SOUL.

5. Since the lack of good is the cause that the soul looks at darkness, and mingles therewith, the lack of good and darkness is primary Evil for the soul. The secondary evil will be the darkness, and the nature of evil, considered not in matter, but before matter. Evil consists not in the lack of any particular thing, but of everything in general. Nothing is evil merely because it lacks a little of being good; its nature might still be perfect. But what, like matter, lacks good entirely, is essentially evil, and possesses nothing good? Nature, indeed, does not possess essence, or it would participate in the good; only by verbal similarity can we say that matter “is,” while we can truly say that matter “is” absolute “nonentity.” A mere lack (of good) therefore, may be characterized as not being good; but complete lack is evil; while a lack of medium intensity consists in the possibility of falling into evil, and is already an evil. Evil, therefore, is not any particular evil, as injustice, or any special vice; evil is that which is not yet anything of that, being nothing definite. Injustice and the other vices must be considered as kinds of evil, distinguished from each other by mere accidents; as for instance, what occurs by malice. Besides, the different kinds of evil differ among each other either by the matter in which evil resides, or by the parts of the soul to which it refers, as sight, desire, and passion.

RELATION BETWEEN EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL EVIL.

If we grant the existence of evils external to the soul, we shall be forced to decide about their relation to sickness, ugliness, or poverty. Sickness has been explained as a lack or excess of material bodies which fail to support order or measure. The cause of ugliness, also, has been given as deficient adjustment of matter to form. Poverty has been described as the need or lack of objects necessary to life as a result of our union with matter, whose nature is (the Heraclitian and Stoic) “indigence.” From such definitions it would follow that we are not the principle of evil, and are not evil in ourselves, for these evils existed before us. Only in spite of themselves would men yield to vice. The evils of the soul are avoidable, but not all men possess the necessary firmness. Evil, therefore, is caused by the presence of matter in sense-objects, and is not identical with the wickedness of men. For wickedness does not exist in all men; some triumph over wickedness, while they who do not even need to triumph over it, are still better. In all cases men triumph over evil by those of their faculties that are not engaged in matter.

IN WHAT SENSE EVILS ARE UNIVERSAL AND UNAVOIDABLE.

6. Let us examine the significance of the doctrine that evils cannot be destroyed, that they are necessary, that they do not exist among the divinities, but that they ever besiege our mortal nature, and the place in which we dwell. Surely heaven is free from all evil because it moves eternally with regularity, in perfect order; because in the stars is neither injustice nor any other kind of evil, because they do not conflict with each other in their courses; and because their revolutions are presided over by the most beautiful harmony. On the contrary, the earth reveals injustice and disorder, (chiefly) because our nature is mortal, and we dwell in a lower place. But when Plato, says, that we must flee from here below, he does not mean that we should leave the earth, but, while remaining therein, practice justice, piety, and wisdom. It is wickedness that must be fled from, because wickedness and its consequences are the evil of man.

EVIL IS NOT GOOD’S QUALITATIVE, BUT ONLY FIGURATIVE ANTAGONIST.

When (Theodor) tells (Socrates) that evils would be annihilated if men practiced (Socrates’) teachings, the latter answers that that is impossible, for evil is necessary even if only as the contrary of good. But how then can wickedness, which is the evil of man, be the contrary of good? Because it is the contrary of virtue. Now virtue, without being Good in itself, is still a good, a good which makes us dominate matter. But how can Good in itself, which is not a quality, have a contrary? Besides, why need the existence of one thing imply its contrary? Though we may grant that there is a possibility of the existence of the contrary of some things—as for instance, that a man in good health might become sick—there is no such necessity. Nor does Plato assert that the existence of each thing of this kind necessarily implies that of its contrary; he makes this statement exclusively of the Good. But how can there be a contrary to good, if the good be “being,” let alone “above being”? Evidently, in reference to particular beings, there can be nothing contrary to “being.” This is proved by induction; but the proposition has not been demonstrated as regards universal Being. What then is the contrary of universal Being, and first principles in general? The contrary of “being” must be nonentity; the contrary of the nature of the Good is the nature and principle of Evil. These two natures are indeed respectively the principles of goods and of evils. All their elements are mutually opposed, so that both these natures, considered in their totality, are still more opposed than the other contraries. The latter, indeed, belong to the same form, to the same kind, and they have something in common in whatever subjects they may be. As to the Contraries that are essentially distinguished from each other, whose nature is constituted of elements opposed to the constitutive elements of the other, those Contraries are absolutely opposed to each other, since the connotation of that word implies things as opposite to each other as possible. Measure, determination, and the other characteristics of the divine nature are the opposites of incommensurability, indefiniteness, and the other contrary things that constitute the nature of evil. Each one of these wholes, therefore, is the contrary of the other. The being of the one is that which is essentially and absolutely false; that of the other is genuine Being; the falseness of the one is, therefore, the contrary of the truth of the other. Likewise what pertains to the being of the one is the contrary of what belongs to the being of the other. We also see that it is not always true to say that there is no contrary to “being,” for we acknowledge that water and fire are contraries, even if they did not contain the common element of matter, of which heat and cold, humidity and dryness, are accidents. If they existed alone by themselves, if their being were complete without any common subject, there would still be an opposition, and an opposition of “being.” Therefore the things that are completely separate, which have nothing in common, which are as distant as possible, are by nature contrary. This is not an opposition of quality, nor of any kinds of beings; it is an opposition resulting from extreme distance, and from being composed of contraries, thereby communicating this characteristic to their elements.

GOOD IMPLIES EVIL BECAUSE MATTER IS NECESSARY TO THE WORLD.

7. Why is the existence of both good and evil necessary? Because matter is necessary to the existence of the world. The latter is necessarily composed of contraries, and, consequently, it could not exist without matter. In this case the nature of this world is a mixture of intelligence and necessity. What it receives from divinity are goods; its evils derive from the primordial nature, the term used (by Plato) to designate matter as a simple substance yet unadorned by a divinity. But what does he mean by “mortal nature?” When he says that “evils besiege this region here below,” he means the universe, as appears from the following quotations: “Since you are born, you are not immortal, but by my help you shall not perish.” In this case it is right to say that evils cannot be annihilated. How then can one flee from them? Not by changing one’s locality, (as Plato) says, but by acquiring virtue, and by separating from the body, which, simultaneously, is separation from matter; for being attached to the body is also attachment to matter. It is in the same sense that (Plato) explains being separated from the body, or not being separated from it. By dwelling with the divinities he means being united to the intelligible objects; for it is in them that inheres immortality.

EXISTENCE OF EVIL IS NECESSARY AS LAST MATERIAL DEGREE OF BEING.

Here follows still another demonstration of the necessity of evil. Since good does not remain alone, evil must necessarily exist by issuing from the good. We might express this differently, as the degradation and exhaustion (of the divine power, which, in the whole hierarchic series of successive emanations weakens from degree to degree). There must, therefore, be a last degree of being, beyond which nothing further can be begotten, and that is evil. Just as the existence of something after a first (Good) is necessary, so must also a last degree (of being) be necessary. Now the last degree is matter, and contains nothing more of the First; (and, as matter and evil are identical,) the existence of evil is necessary.

MATTER IS CAUSE OF EVIL, EVEN IF CORPOREAL.

8. It may still be objected that it is not matter that makes us wicked; for it is not matter that produces ignorance and perverted appetites. If, indeed, these appetites mislead us to evil as a result of the perversity of the body, we must seek its cause, not in matter, but in form (in the qualities of the bodies). These, for instance, are heat, cold, bitterness, pungency, and the other qualities of the bodily secretions; or, the atonic condition or inflammation of certain organs; or, certain dispositions which produce the difference of appetites; and, if you please, false opinions. Evil, therefore, is form rather than matter. Even under this (mistaken) hypothesis we are none the less driven to acknowledge that matter is the evil. A quality does not always produce the same results within or outside of matter; thus the form of the axe without iron does not cut. The forms that inhere in matter are not always what they would be if they were outside of it. The (“seminal) reasons” when inhering in matter are by it corrupted and filled with its nature. As fire, when separate from matter, does not burn; so form, when remaining by itself, effects what it would if it were in matter. Matter dominates any principle that appears within it, alters it, and corrupts it by imparting thereto its own nature, which is contrary to the Good. It does not indeed substitute cold for heat, but it adds to the form—as, for instance, to the form of fire—its formless substance; to figure adding its shapelessness; to measure, its excess and lack, proceeding thus until it has degraded things, transubstantiating them into its own nature. That is the reason that, in the nutrition of animals, what has been ingested does not remain what it was before. The foods that enter into the body of a dog, for instance, are by assimilation transformed into blood and canine secretions, and, in general, are transformed according to the animal that receives them. Thus even under the hypothesis that evils are referred to the body, matter is the cause of evils.

MASTERY OF THESE CORPOREAL DISPOSITIONS IS NOT EASY.

It may be objected that one ought to master these dispositions of the body. But the principle that could triumph over them is pure only if it flee from here below. The appetites which exercise the greatest force come from a certain complexion of the body, and differ according to its nature. Consequently, it is not easy to master them. There are men who have no judgment, because they are cold and heavy on account of their bad constitution. On the contrary, there are others who, because of their temperament, are light and inconstant. This is proved by the difference of our own successive dispositions. When we are gorged, we have appetites and thoughts that differ from those we experience when starved; and our dispositions vary even according to the degrees of satiety.

DEFINITION OF PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EVIL.

In short, the primary Evil is that which by itself lacks measure. The secondary evil is that which accidentally becomes formless, either by assimilation or participation. In the front rank is the darkness; in the second that which has become obscured. Thus vice, being in the soul the result of ignorance and formlessness, is of secondary rank. It is not absolute Evil, because, on its side, virtue is not absolute Good; it is good only by its assimilation and participation with the Good.

B. BY WHAT PART OF OUR NATURE WE COME TO KNOW EVIL.

HOW THE SOUL COMES TO KNOW VICE.

9. How do we get to know vice and virtue? As to virtue, we know it by the very intelligence and by wisdom; for wisdom knows itself. But how can we know vice? Just as we observe that an object is not in itself straight, by applying a rule, so we discern vice by this characteristic, that it does not comport itself with virtue. But do we, or do we not have direct intuition thereof? We do not have the intuition of absolute vice, because it is indeterminate. We know it, therefore, by a kind of abstraction, observing that virtue is entirely lacking. We cognize relative vice by noticing that it lacks some part of virtue. We see a part of virtue, and, by this part, judging what is lacking in order completely to constitute the form (of virtue), we call vice what is lacking to it; defining as the indeterminate (evil) what is deprived of virtue. Similarly with matter. If, for instance, we notice a figure that is ugly because its (“seminal) reason,” being unable to dominate matter, has been unable to hide its deformity, we notice ugliness by what is lacking to form.

HOW TO SEE MATTER: BY DIALECTIC ABSTRACTION.

But how do we know that which is absolutely formless (matter)? We make abstraction of all kinds of form, and what remains we call matter. We allow ourselves to be penetrated by a kind of shapelessness by the mere fact that we make abstraction of all shape in order to be able to represent matter (by a “bastard reasoning”). Consequently, intelligence becomes altered, and ceases to be genuine intelligence when it dares in this way to look at what does not belong to its domain. It resembles the eye, which withdraws from light to see darkness, and which on that very account does not see. Thus, in not seeing, the eye sees darkness so far as it is naturally capable of seeing it. Thus intelligence which hides light within itself, and which, so to speak, issues from itself, by advancing towards things alien to its nature, without bringing along its own light, places itself in a state contrary to its being to cognize a nature contrary to its own. But enough of this.

MATTER IS BOTH WITHOUT QUALITIES AND EVIL.

10. It may well be asked (by Stoics) how matter can be evil, as it is without quality? That matter possesses no qualities can be said in the sense that by itself it has none of the qualities it is to receive, or to which matter is to serve as substrate; but cannot be said in the sense that it will possess no nature. Now, if it have a nature, what hinders this nature from being bad, without this being bad being a quality? Nothing indeed is a quality but what serves to qualify something different from itself; a quality is, therefore, an accident; a quality is that which can be mentioned as the attribute of a subject other than itself. But matter is not the attribute of something alien; it is the subject to which accidents are related. Therefore, since every quality is an accident, matter, whose nature is not to be an accident, is without quality. If, besides, quality (taken in general), itself be without quality, how could one say of matter, so far as it has not yet received any quality, that it is in some manner qualified? It is, therefore, possible to assert of matter that, it both has no quality, and yet is evil. Matter is not evil because it has a quality, but just because it has none. If, indeed, matter possessed a form, it might indeed be bad; but it would not be a nature contrary to all form.

MATTER AS DEPRIVATION IS STILL WITHOUT QUALITIES.

11. It may be further objected that nature, independent of all form, is deprivation. Now deprivation is always the attribute of some hypostatic substance, instead of itself being substance. If then evil consist in privation, it is the attribute of the substrate deprived of form; and on that account it could not exist by itself. If it be in the soul that we consider evil, privation in the soul will constitute vice and wickedness, and there will be no need to have recourse to anything external to explain it.

MATTER MAY EXIST AND YET BE EVIL.

Elsewhere it is objected that matter does not exist; here the attempt is to show that matter is not evil in so far as it exists. (If this were the case), we should not seek the origin of evil outside of the soul, but it would be located within the soul herself; there evil consists in the absence of good. But, evidently, the soul would have nothing good on the hypothesis that privation of form is an accident of the being, which desires to receive form; that, consequently, the privation of good is an accident of the soul; and that the latter produces within herself wickedness by her (“seminal) reason.” Another result would be that the soul would have no life, and be inanimate; which would lead to the absurdity that the soul is no soul.

THE SOUL CANNOT POSSESS EVIL WITHIN HERSELF.

We are thus forced to assert, that the soul possesses life by virtue of her (“seminal) reason,” so that she does not, by herself, possess privation of good. Then she must from intelligence derive a trace of good, and have the form of good. The soul, therefore, cannot by herself be evil. Consequently, she is not the first Evil, nor does she contain it as an accident, since she is not absolutely deprived of good.

RELATIVE PRIVATION IS IMPOSSIBLE.

12. To the objection that in the soul wickedness and evil are not an absolute privation, but only a relative privation of good, it may be answered that in this case, if the soul simultaneously, contain possession and privation of the good, she will have possessed a feeling mingled of good and evil, and not of unmingled evil. We will still not have found the first evil, the absolute Evil. The good of the soul will reside in her essence (being); evil will only be an accident thereof.

EVIL AS AN OBSTACLE TO THE SOUL.

13. Another hypothesis is that evil owes its character only to its being an obstacle for the soul, as certain objects are bad for the eye, because they hinder it from seeing. In this case, the evil of the soul would be the cause that produces the evil, and it would produce it without being absolute Evil. If, then, vice be an obstacle for the soul, it will not be absolute Evil, but the cause of evil, as virtue is not the good, and only contributes to acquiring it. If virtue be not good, and vice be not evil, the result is that since virtue is neither absolute beauty nor goodness, vice is neither absolute ugliness nor evil. We hold that virtue is neither absolute beauty, nor absolute goodness, because above and before it is absolute Beauty and Goodness. Only because the soul participates in these, is virtue or beauty considered a good. Now as the soul, by rising above virtue, meets absolute Beauty and Goodness, thus in descending below wickedness the soul discovers absolute Evil. To arrive at the intuition of evil the soul, therefore, starts from wickedness, if indeed an intuition of evil be at all possible. Finally, when the soul descends, she participates in evil. She rushes completely into the region of diversity, and, plunging downwards she falls into a murky mire. If she fell into absolute wickedness, her characteristic would no longer be wickedness, and she would exchange it for a still lower nature. Even though mingled with a contrary nature, wickedness, indeed, still retains something human. The vicious man, therefore, dies so far as a soul can die. Now when, in connection with the soul, we speak of dying, we mean that while she is engaged in the body, she penetrates (further) into matter, and becomes saturated with it. Then, when the soul has left the body, she once more falls into the same mud until she have managed to return into the intelligible world, and weaned her glance from this mire. So long as she remains therein, she may be said to have descended into hell, and to be slumbering there.

WEAKNESS OF THE SOUL AS AN EXPLANATION OF EVIL.

14. Wickedness is by some explained as weakness of the soul, because the wicked soul is impressionable, mobile, easy to lead to evil, disposed to listen to her passions, and equally likely to become angry, and to be reconciled; she yields inconsiderately to vain ideas, like the weakest works of art and of nature, which are easily destroyed by winds and storms. This theory (is attractive, but implies a totally new conception, that of “weakness” of soul, and it would have) to explain this “weakness,” and whence it is derived; for weakness in a soul is very different from weakness in a body, but just as in the body weakness consists in inability to fulfill a function, in being too impressionable, the same fault in the soul might, by analogy, be called by the same name, unless matter be equally the cause of both weaknesses. Reason, however, will have to explore the problem further, and seek the cause of the soul-fault here called weakness.

WEAKNESS OF THE SOUL OCCURS CHIEFLY IN SOULS FALLEN INTO MATTER.

In the soul weakness does not derive from an excess of density or rarefaction of leanness or stoutness, nor of any sickness such as fever. It must be met in souls which are either entirely separated from matter, or in those joined to matter, or in both simultaneously. Now, as it does not occur in souls separated from matter, which are entirely pure, and “winged,” and which, as perfect, carry out their functions without any obstacle; it remains, that this weakness occurs in fallen souls, which are neither pure nor purified. For them weakness consists not in the privation of anything, but in the presence of something alien, just as, for instance, weakness of the body consists in the presence of slime or bile. We shall, therefore, be able to understand clearly the weakness of the soul by ferreting out the cause of the “fall” of the soul.

THE FALL OF THE SOUL AS DESCENT INTO MATTER.

Just as much as the soul, matter is included within the order of beings. For both, so to speak, there is but a single locality; for it would be an error to imagine two different localities, one for matter, and the other for the soul; such as, for instance, earth might be for matter, and air for the soul. The expression that “soul occupies a locality different from matter” means only that the soul is not in matter; that is, that the soul is not united to matter; that the soul does not together with matter constitute something unitary; and that for the soul matter is not a substrate that could contain the soul. That is how the soul is separated from matter. But the soul possesses several powers, since she contains the principle (intelligence), the medium (the discursive reason), and the goal (the power of sensation) (united to the generative and growing powers). Now, just like the beggar who presents himself at the door of the banquet-hall, and with importunity asks to be admitted, matter tries to penetrate into the place occupied by the soul. But every place is sacred, because nothing in it is deprived of the presence of the soul. Matter, on exposing itself to its rays is illuminated by it, but it cannot harbor the principle that illuminates her (the soul). The latter indeed, does not sustain matter, although she be present, and does not even see it, because it is evil. Matter obscures, weakens the light that shines down upon her, by mingling its darkness with her. To the soul, matter affords the opportunity of producing generation, by clearing free access towards matter; for if matter were not present, the soul would not approach it. The fall of the soul is, therefore, a descent into matter; hence comes her “weakness,” which means, that not all of the soul’s faculties are exercised; because matter hinders their action, intruding on the place occupied by the soul and forcing her, so to speak, to retrench. Until the soul can manage to accomplish her return into the intelligible world, matter degrades what it has succeeded in abstracting from the soul. For the soul, therefore, matter is a cause of weakness and vice. Therefore, by herself, the soul is primitively evil, and is the first evil. By its presence, matter is the cause of the soul’s exerting her generative powers, and being thus led to suffering; it is matter that causes the soul to enter into dealings with matter, and thus to become evil. The soul, indeed, would never have approached matter unless the latter’s presence had not afforded the soul an opportunity to produce generation.

NO MORE THAN THE EXISTENCE OF THE GOOD CAN THAT OF MATTER BE DENIED.

15. Those who claim that matter does not exist, will have to be referred to our extended discussion where we have demonstrated the necessity of its hypostatic existence. Those who would assert that evil does not belong among beings would, if logical, thereby also deny the existence of the good, and of anything that was desirable; thereby annihilating desire, as well as aversion, and even thought; for everybody shares desire for the good, and aversion for the evil. Thought and knowledge, simultaneously, apply to good and evil; thought itself is a good.

EXPLANATION OF THE EVIL OF THE SOUL.

We must, therefore, acknowledge the existence first of Good, unmixed, and then the nature mingled of good and evil; but what most participates in evil thereby trends towards absolute Evil; and what participates in it to a less degree thereby trends towards good. For what is evil to soul? It is being in contact with inferior nature; otherwise the soul would not have any appetite, pain, or fear. Indeed fear is felt by us only for the composite (of soul and body), fearing its dissolution, which thus is the cause of our pains and sufferings. The end of every appetite is to put aside what troubles it, or to forestall what might do so. As to sense-representations (fancy), it is the impression made by an exterior object on the irrational part of the soul, a part which can receive this impression only because it is not indivisible. False opinion rises within the soul because it is no longer within truth, and this occurs because the soul is no longer pure. On the contrary, the desire of the intelligible leads the soul to unite intimately with intelligence, as she should, and there remain solidly entrenched, without declining towards anything inferior. It is only because of the nature and power of the Good that evil does not remain pure Evil. (Matter, which is synonymous with evil) is like a captive which beauty covers with golden chains, so that the divinities might not see its nakedness, and that men might not be intruded on by it; or that men, if they must see it, shall be reminded of beauty on observing an even weakened image thereof.


Ennead 1.9. Of Suicide.

EVIL EFFECTS OF SUICIDE ON THE SOUL HERSELF.

1. (As says pseudo-Zoroaster, in his Magic Oracles), “The soul should not be expelled from the body by violence, lest she go out (dragging along with her something foreign,” that is, corporeal). In this case, she will be burdened with this foreign element whithersoever she may emigrate. By “emigrating,” I mean passing into the Beyond. On the contrary, one should wait until the entire body naturally detaches itself from the soul; in which case she no longer needs to pass into any other residence, being completely unburdened of the body.

HOW TO DETACH THE SOUL FROM THE BODY NATURALLY.

How will the body naturally detach itself from the soul? By the complete rupture of the bonds which keep the soul attached to the body, by the body’s impotence to fetter the soul, on account of the complete destruction of the harmony which conferred this power on it.

VOLUNTARY SOUL-DETACHMENT IS FORBIDDEN.

One may not voluntarily disengage oneself from the fetters of the body. When violence is employed, it is not the body which disengages itself from the soul, it is the soul which makes an effort to snatch herself from the body, and that by an action which accomplishes itself not in the state of impassibility (which suits a sage), but as the result of grief, or suffering, or of anger. Now such an action is forbidden, or unworthy.

SUICIDE UNAVAILABLE EVEN TO AVOID INSANITY.

May one not forestall delirium or insanity, if one become aware of their approach? To begin with, insanity does not happen to a sage, and if it does, this accident should be considered one of those inevitable things which depend from fatality, and in which case one should direct one’s path less according to his intrinsic quality than according to circumstances; for perhaps the poison one might select to eject the soul from the body might do nothing but injure the soul.

SUICIDE IS UNADVISABLE, FOR TWO REASONS.

If there be an appointed time for the life of each of us, it is not well to forestall the decree of Providence, unless, as we have said, under absolute compulsion.

Last, if rank obtained above depend on the state obtaining at the time of exit from the body, no man should separate himself from it so long as he might still achieve progress.