Ennead 2.1. Of the Heaven.
HEAVEN, THOUGH IN FLUX, PERPETUATES ITSELF BY FORM.
1. Nothing will be explained by the perfectly true (Stoic) statement that the world, as corporeal being that ever existed and that will ever exist, is indebted for the cause of its perpetuity to the volition of the divinity. We might find an analogy between the change of the elements, and the death of animals without the perishing of the form of the species here below, and the universe above, whose body is subject to a perpetual flux and flow. Thus the divine volition could preserve for it the same specific form in spite of successive alterations, so that, without perpetually retaining numerical unity, it would ever preserve the specific unity of form. It would indeed be a remarkable discrepancy in the methods of nature that here below in animals the form alone should be perpetual, while in the heaven and the stars their individuality should be considered as perpetual as their form.
THERE MUST INEVITABLY BE CHANGE IN HEAVEN.
The incorruptibility of the heaven has been ascribed to its containing within its breast all things, and to the non-existence of any other thing into which it could change, as well as to the impossibility of its meeting anything exterior that could destroy it. These theories would indeed, in a reasonable manner, explain the incorruptibility of heaven considered as totality, and universe; but would fail to explain the perpetuity of the sun and of the other stars which are parts of heaven, instead of being the whole universe, as is the heaven. It would seem more reasonable that, just like the fire and similar things, the stars, and the world considered as universe would possess a perpetuity chiefly of form. It is quite possible that the heaven, without meeting any destructive exterior thing, should be subjected to a perpetual destruction such that it would preserve nothing identical but the form, from the mere mutual destruction of its parts. In this case its substrate, being in a perpetual flux, would receive its form from some other principle; and we would be driven to recognize in the universal living Organism what occurs in man, in the horse, and in other animals; namely, that the man or horse (considered as species) lasts forever, while the individual changes. (According to this view, then) the universe will not be constituted by one ever permanent part, the heaven, and another ceaselessly changing one, composed of terrestrial things. All these things will then be subject to the same condition though they might differ by longer or shorter duration, since celestial bodies are more durable. Such a conception of the perpetuity characteristic of the universe and its parts contains less ambiguity (than the popular notion), and would be freed from all doubt if we were to demonstrate that the divine power is capable of containing the universe in this manner. The theory that the world contains something perpetual in its individuality would demand not only a demonstration that the divine volition can produce such an effect, but also an explanation why certain things (according to that theory) are always identical (in form and individuality), while other things are identical only by their form. If the parts of the heaven alone remained identical (by their individuality), all other things also should logically remain (individually) identical.
REJECTION OF THE OPINION OF HERACLITUS.
2. An admission that the heaven and the stars are perpetual in their individuality, while sublunary things are perpetual only in their form, would demand demonstration that a corporeal being can preserve its individuality as well as its form, even though the nature of bodies were a continual fluctuation. Such is the nature that the physical philosophers, and even Plato himself, attribute not only to sublunar bodies, but even to celestial ones. “For,” asks (Plato), “how could corporeal and visible objects subsist ever immutable and identical with themselves?” (Plato) therefore admits the opinion of Heraclitus that “the sun itself is in a state of perpetual becoming (or, growth).”
ARISTOTLE HAS TO DEPEND ON QUINTESSENCE.
On the contrary, in the system of Aristotle, the immutability of the stars is easily explained, but only after accepting his theory of a fifth element (the quintessence). If, however, it be rejected, it would be impossible to demonstrate that the heaven, let alone its parts, the sun and the stars, do not perish, while (as Aristotle does) we regard the body of the heaven as being composed of the same elements as terrestrial animals.
PLOTINUS’S VIEWS SUPPORTED BY THE HEAVEN’S POSSESSION OF THE SOUL AND BODY.
As every animal is composed of soul and body, the heaven must owe the permanence of its individuality to the nature either of its soul, or of its body; or again, to that of both. On the hypothesis that its incorruptibility is due to the nature of its body, the Soul’s only function will be to animate it (by uniting with the body of the world). On the contrary hypothesis that the body, by nature corruptible, owes its incorruptibility exclusively to the Soul, there is need of demonstration that the state of the body does not naturally oppose this constitution and permanence (for, naturally constituted objects admit of no disharmony); but that, on the contrary, here matter, by its predisposition, contributes to the accomplishment of the divine volition.
FLUCTUATION NEED NOT INTERFERE WITH CONTINUANCE.
3. (It might however be objected) that the body of the world could not contribute to the immortality of the world, since the body itself fluctuates perpetually. But this fluctuation does not take place in an outward direction, while the body (of the world) remains ever the same because this fluctuation occurs so entirely within the world that nothing issues therefrom. The world therefore could neither increase nor diminish, nor further grow old. (As proof of this we may) consider how, from all eternity, the earth constantly preserves the same shape and mass; similarly, the air never diminishes, any more than the water. The changes within them do not affect the universal living Organism. Even we human beings subsist a long while, in spite of the perpetual change of our constituent parts, and though some of these parts even issue from the body. So much the more will the world’s nature, from which nothing issues, sufficiently harmonize with the nature of the universal Soul to form along with her an organism which ever remains the same, and subsists for ever.
FIRE, THOUGH AN APPARENT EXCEPTION, STILL CONFORMS TO THIS PROCEDURE.
For example, fire (as the principal element of the heaven), is both lively and swift, and cannot remain in the inferior regions, any more than the earth can abide in the superior regions. When it has reached these regions where it is to remain, it becomes established in the most suitable place. But even so, like all other bodies, it still seeks to extend in all directions. However, it cannot ascend, since there is no place higher than the one it occupies; nor can it descend, because of the opposition of its own nature. The only thing left for it to do is to yield to the guidance and natural impulsion of the life-imparting universal Soul, that is, to move into the most beautiful place, in the universal Soul. Its falling from here is prevented by the universal Soul’s circular movement which dominates and supports it, as well as by its innate indisposition to descend, so that its continuance in the higher regions is unopposed. (The fire has no similarity with) the constitutive parts of our body which are forced to derive their suitable form from elsewhere. If unaided, they are not even capable of preserving their organization. Merely to subsist, they are forced to borrow parts from other objects. The case is entirely different with the fire of the heaven, which needs no food because it loses nothing. If indeed it allowed anything to escape, we might indeed be forced to state that when in the heaven a fire is extinguished, a substitute must be lit. But in such a case the universal living Organism would no more remain identical.
THE IMMORTALITY OF THE HEAVEN IS DUE TO RESIDENCE THERE OF THE UNIVERSAL SOUL.
4. Apart from the exigencies of our argument, it may be interesting to consider whether there be any wastage off from heaven, so as to create a need of being (replenished or) fed, so to speak; or whether all its contents, being once for all established, subsist there naturally, without allowing any of their substance to escape. In the latter case we would be driven further to inquire whether the heaven be composed of fire exclusively or principally; and whether, while dominating the other elements, the fire engages them in its course. Were we to associate (with fire) the Soul, which is the most powerful of all causes, so as to unite her with elements so pure and excellent (just as, in other animals, the soul chooses the best parts of the body as dwelling-place), we would have produced a solid argument for the immortality of the heaven. Aristotle indeed says that the flame surges, and that the fire devours everything with an insatiable avidity; but he was evidently speaking only of the terrestrial fire, for the celestial fire is calm, immovable, and in harmony with the nature of the stars.
THE HEAVEN’S IMMORTALITY ALSO DUE TO THE UNIVERSAL SOUL’S SPONTANEOUS MOTION.
A still more important reason for the immortality of the heaven is that the universal Soul, moving with remarkable spontaneity, immediately succeeds the most perfect principles (such as the Good, and Intelligence). She could not therefore allow the annihilation of anything which had once been posited within her. Ignorance of the cause that contains the universe could alone permit denial that the universal Soul which emanates from the divinity excels all other bonds in strength. It is absurd to believe that after having contained something during a certain period, she could ever cease doing so. This would imply that she had done so till now by some violence; which would again infer the existence of some plan more natural than the actual state, and actual admirable disposition of beings within the very constitution of the universe; which would lastly suggest a force capable of destroying the organization of the universe, and of undermining the sovereignty of the governing Soul.
THE IMMORTALITY OF THE HEAVEN PROVED BY ITS NEVER HAVING HAD TO BEGIN.
We have elsewhere shown that it would be absurd to suppose that the world ever had a beginning. This however implies that it will never cease to exist. Why indeed should it not continue to do so? Its component elements are not, like wood, and similar things, exposed to wastage. Their continued subsistence, however, implies that the universe that they form must also ever subsist. On the other hand, even if they were subject to a perpetual change, the universe must still subsist because the principle of this change subsists continually. Moreover, it has elsewhere been shown that the universal Soul is not subject to repentance, because she governs the universe without difficulties or fatigue, and that even in the impossible case that the body of the universe should happen to perish, she would not thereby be altered.
WHY CELESTIAL THINGS LAST LONGER THAN TERRESTRIAL ONES.
5. The reason why celestial things endure beyond terrestrial animals and elements has been thus stated by Plato: “Divine animals were formed by the divinity Himself, while the animals here below were formed by the divinities, His offspring.” What the divinity (Himself) does could not possibly perish. This implies the existence, below the demiurge (Intelligence), of the celestial Soul, with our souls. From the celestial Soul derives and flows an apparent-form-of-an-image, which forms terrestrial animals. This inferior soul imitates her intelligible principle (the celestial Soul), without, however, being able to resemble her completely—because she employs elements which are less good (than the celestial elements); because the place where she operates with them is less good (than heaven)—and because the materials that she organizes could not remain united. Consequently, terrestrial animals could not last for ever. For the same reason this soul does not dominate terrestrial bodies with as much power (as the celestial Soul dominates celestial things), because each of them is governed by another (human) soul.
IMMORTALITY DOES NOT EXTEND TO THE SUB-LUNAR SPHERE.
If we be right in attributing immortality to the heaven, we shall have to extend that conception to the stars it contains; for unless its parts endured, neither could the heaven. However, the things beneath the heaven do not form part of it. The region which constitutes the heaven does not extend further down than the moon. As to us, having our organs formed by the (vegetative) soul which was given us by the celestial divinities (the stars), and even the heaven itself, we are united to the body by that soul. Indeed, the other soul (the reasonable soul), which constitutes our person, our “me,” is not the cause of our being, but of our well-being (which consists in our intellectual life). She comes to join our body when it is already formed (by the vegetative soul), and contributes to our being only by one part, by giving us reason (in making of us reasonable beings, and men).
THE STARS CONTAIN NOT ONLY FIRE, BUT TANGIBLE EARTH.
6. Is the heaven composed exclusively of fire? Does the fire allow any of its substance to flow off, or escape? Does it, therefore, need being fed? (Plato) thinks the body of the universe is composed of earth and fire; fire to explain its being visible, and earth to explain its being tangible. This would lead us to suppose that the stars are composed of fire not exclusively, but predominatingly, since they seem to possess a tangible element. This opinion is plausible because Plato supports it with reasonable grounds. Sense, sight and touch would lead us to believe that the greater part, if not the whole, of the heaven, is fire. But reason suggests that the heaven also contains earth, because without earth it could not be tangible. This however does not imply that it contains also air and water. It would seem absurd to think that water could subsist in so great a fire; nor could air survive therein without immediately being transformed to steam. It might be objected that two solids which play the parts of extremes in a proportion, cannot be united without two means. This objection, however, might have no cogency, for this mathematical relation might not apply to natural things, as indeed we are led to surmise by the possibility of mingling earth and water without any intermediary. To this it may be answered that earth and water already contain the other elements. Some persons might think that the latter could not effectually unite earth and water; but this would not disturb our contention that the earth and water are related because each of these two elements contains all the others.
EARTH CONTAINS ALL THE OTHER ELEMENTS.
Besides, we shall have to examine whether the earth be invisible without fire, and the fire intangible without the earth. Were this the case, nothing would possess its own proper being. All things would be mixed; each would reclaim its name only by the element preponderating in it; for it has been claimed that the earth could not exist without the humidity of water, which alone keeps all its parts united. Even were this granted, it would, none the less, remain absurd to say that each of these elements is something, while claiming that it does not possess any characteristically individual constitution, except by its union with the other elements, which, nevertheless, would not, any the more, exist individually, each in itself. What reality, indeed, would inhere in the nature or being of the earth, if none of its parts were earth except because the water that operated as a bond? Besides, with what could water unite without the preliminary existence of an extension whose parts were to be bound together for the formation of a continuous whole? The existence of an extension, however small it be, will imply the self-existence of earth, without the assistance of water; otherwise, there would be nothing for water to bind together. Nor would the earth have any need of air, since the air exists before the observation of any change within it. Nor is fire any more necessary to the constitution of the earth; fire only serves in making it visible, like all other objects. It is indeed reasonable to assert that it is fire which renders objects visible, and it is a mistake to state that “one sees darkness,” which cannot be seen any more than silence can be heard. Besides, there is no necessity for fire to be in earth; light suffices (to make it visible). Snow, and many other very cold substances are, without any fire, very brilliant—that is, unless we say that the fire approached them, and colored them before leaving them.
ELEMENTS ARE NEVERTHELESS INDIVIDUAL.
As to the other elements, could not water exist without participating in the earth? Air could certainly not be said to participate in earth, because of its penetrability. It is very doubtful that the fire contains any earth, because it does not seem continuous, and does not, by itself, seem to be tri-dimensional. True, fire does seem to contain solidity, but not of a tri-dimensional kind; it seems rather to be a sort of resistance corporeal nature). Only of earth may hardness be predicated; indeed, gold, in liquid state, is dense; not because it is earth, but because it possesses density, and is solidified. It would therefore not be unreasonable that fire, apart by itself, could subsist by the power of the Soul which sustains it by her presence. The bodies of (certain among) the guardian spirits consist of fire.
TERRESTRIAL ELEMENTS, HOWEVER, DO NOT DEGRADE THE HEAVEN.
It is unlikely that the universal Organism is composed of universal elements. That terrestrial animals are thus composed is certain; but to introduce the terrestrial element into the composition of the heaven would be to admit something contrary to nature, and to the order thereby established. (Epicurus’s opinion that) the stars carry terrestrial bodies along in their rapid flight is undemonstrable. Besides, the presence of the earth would be an obstacle to the shine and splendor of the celestial fire.
PLATO POSTULATED THE EXISTENCE OF EARTH AS BASIS OF LIFE.
7. Plato’s view is to be accepted. The universe must contain something solid, impenetrable, so that the earth, when established in the middle of the universe, might offer a firm foundation for all the animals that walk on it, and that these animals might possess a certain solidity by the very fact of their terrestriality; so that the earth might, by itself, possess the property of continuousness; that it might be illuminated by fire, might also participate in water, so as not to be desiccated, and so that its parts might unite, and that the air might somewhat lighten its mass.
ELEMENTS ARE KINDRED THROUGH THEIR COMMON GROUND, THE UNIVERSE-BODY.
The earth was mingled with the upper fire not to produce the stars, but because fire has something terrestrial, as earth has something igneous, as a result of all the bodies being contained within the body of the universe. In short, every one of the elements includes mixture of itself and of the other with which it participates. This results from the interrelating community existing within the universe (the “sympathy”). So each element, without combining with any other, borrows some of its properties. For example, water participates in the fluidity of the air, without however mingling therewith; so the earth does not possess the fire, but derives its brightness from it. On the other hand, a mixture would render all properties common to both elements, confounding them together, and would not limit itself to merely approximating earth and fire, that is, a certain solidity with a certain density. On this subject we can invoke the authority of (Plato), “The divinity lit this light in the second circle above the earth,” thereby referring to the sun, which he elsewhere calls “the most brilliant star.”
By these words he hinders us from admitting that the sun is anything else than fire. He also indicates that fire has no quality other than light, which he considers as distinct from flame, and as possessing only a gentle heat. This light is a body. From it emanates another being that we, by verbal similarity, also call light, and which we acknowledge to be incorporeal. This second kind of light derives from the former, being its flower and brightness, and constitutes the essentially white (that is, brilliant) body (of lightning, or comets). (Unfortunately, however), the word “terrestrial” (which designates the element allied to the fire, as we have said above), we are wont to regard unfavorably because Plato makes the earth consist of solidity, while we speak of the earth as a unity, though (Plato) distinguishes several qualities within this element.
NATURE OF THE CELESTIAL FIRE AND LIGHT.
The fire of which we speak above emits the purest light, and resides in the highest region, by virtue of its nature. These celestial flames are entirely distinct from the earthly flame, which after ascending to a certain height, and meeting a greater quantity of air, becomes extinguished. After ascending, it falls back on to the earth, because (as a comet) it cannot rise any further; it stops in the sublunar regions, though rendering the ambient air lighter. In those cases in which it continues to subsist in higher regions, it becomes weaker, gentler, and acquires a heatless glow, which is but a reflection of the celestial light. The latter, on the other hand, is divided partly among the stars in which it reveals great contrasts of magnitude and color, and partly in the atmosphere. Its invisibility to our eyes is caused both by its tenuity, and transparence, which causes it to become as tangible as pure air, and also because of its distance from the earth.
CELESTIAL LIGHT IS NOT EXPOSED TO ANY WASTAGE.
8. Since this light subsists in elevated regions, because the purity of its nature forces it to remain in pure regions, it cannot be subject to any wastage (or, leakage). Such a nature could not allow any escape either downwards or upwards, nor could it meet anything that would force it to descend. Moreover, it will be remembered that there is a great difference of condition in a body united to, or separated from a soul; and in this case the body of the heaven is everywhere united to the (universal) Soul.
THE HEAVEN DOES NOT NEED THE ACTION OF EITHER AIR OR FIRE.
Besides, all that approaches the heaven is either air or fire. What of it is air cannot affect the heaven. What of it is fire can neither influence the heaven, nor touch it, to act on it. Before acting on the heaven, it would have to assume its nature; besides, fire is less great or powerful than the heaven. Moreover, the action of fire consists in heating; whereas, 1, that which is to be heated cannot have been hot by itself; and as, 2, that which is to be dissolved by fire must first be heated, inasmuch as it is this heating which causes a change of nature. No other body is needed for either the subsistence of the heaven, or for the functioning of its natural revolutions. Moreover, the heaven does not move in a straight line, because it is in the nature of celestial things to remain immovable, or to move in a circular orbit, and not to assume any other kind of movement without compulsion by some superior force.
THE STARS ARE INEXHAUSTIBLE. AND NEED NO REFRESHMENT.
Stars, therefore, stand in need of no feeding, and we should not judge them according to our own circumstances. Indeed, our (human) soul, which contains our bodies, is not identical with the Soul that contains the heaven; our soul does not reside in the same place, while the world-Soul does not, like our composite bodies lose (excreta). Not as our bodies do the stars need continual metabolic replacing food. From our conception of celestial bodies we should remove all ideas of a change that could modify their constitution. Terrestrial bodies are animated by an entirely different nature; which though because of its weakness is incapable of insuring them a durable existence, nevertheless imitates the superior nature (of the celestial Soul) by birth and generation. Elsewhere we have shown that even this very celestial Soul cannot partake of the perfect immutability of intelligible things.
Ennead 2.2. About the Movement of the Heavens.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE MOVEMENTS OF THE HEAVENS.
1. Why do the heavens move in a circle? Because they imitate Intelligence. But to what does this movement belong? To the Soul, or to the body? Does it occur because the Soul is within the celestial sphere, which tends to revolve about her? Is the Soul within this sphere without being touched thereby? Does she cause this sphere to move by her own motion? Perhaps the Soul which moves this sphere should not move it in the future, although she did so in the past; that is, the soul made it remain immovable, instead of ceaselessly imparting to it a circular movement. Perhaps the Soul herself might remain immovable; or, if she move at all, it will at least not be a local movement.
THREE KINDS OF MOVEMENT.
How can the Soul impart to the heavens a local movement, herself possessing a different kind of motion? Perhaps the circular movement, when considered by itself, may not seem a local movement. If then it be a local movement only by accident, what is its own nature, by itself? It is the reflection upon itself, the movement of consciousness, of reflection, of life; it withdraws nothing from the world, it changes the location of nothing, while embracing all. Indeed, the power which governs the universal Animal (or world) embraces everything, and unifies everything. If then it remained immovable, it would not embrace everything either vitally or locally; it would not preserve the life of the interior parts of the body it possesses, because the bodily life implies movement. On the contrary, if it be a local movement, the Soul will possess a movement only such as it admits of. She will move, not only as soul, but as an animated body, and as an animal; her movement will partake both of the movement proper to the soul, and proper to the body. Now the movement proper to the body is to mobilize in a straight line; the movement proper to the Soul, is to contain; while both of these movements result in a third, the circular movement which includes both transportation and permanence.
FIRE MOVES STRAIGHT ONLY PRELIMINARILY.
To the assertion that the circular movement is a corporeal movement, it might be objected that one can see that every body, even fire, moves in a straight line. However, the fire moves in a straight line only till it reaches the place assigned to it by the universal order (it constitutes the heavens, which are its proper place). By virtue of this order its nature is permanent, and it moves towards its assigned location. Why then does the fire as soon as it has arrived there, not abide there quiescently? Because its very nature is constant movement; if it went in a straight line, it would dissipate; consequently, it necessarily possesses a circular motion. That is surely a providential arrangement. Providence placed fire within itself (because it constitutes the heavens, which are its location); so that, as soon as it finds itself in the sky it must spontaneously move in a circle.
WHY SOUL ASSUMES A CIRCULAR MOTION.
We might further say that, if the fire tended to move in a straight line, it must effect a return upon itself in the only place where it is possible (in the heavens), inasmuch as there is no place outside of the world where it could go. In fact there is no further place, beyond the celestial fire, for itself constitutes the last place in the universe; it therefore moves in a circle in the place at its disposal; it is its own place, but not to remain immovable, but to move. In a circle, the center is naturally immovable; and were the circumference the same, it would be only an immense center It is therefore better that the fire should turn around the center in this living and naturally organized body. Thus the fire will tend towards the center, not in stopping, for it would lose its circular form, but in moving itself around it; thus only will it be able to satisfy its tendency (towards the universal Soul). However, if this power effect the movement of the body of the universe, it does not drag it like a burden, nor give it an impulsion contrary to its nature. For nature is constituted by nothing else than the order established by the universal Soul. Besides, as the whole Soul is everywhere, and is not divided into parts, it endows the sky with all the ubiquity it can assimilate, which can occur only by traversing all of it. If the Soul remained immovable in one place, she would remain immovable as soon as the heavens reached this place; but as the Soul is everywhere, they would seek to reach her everywhere. Can the heavens never reach the Soul? On the contrary, they reach her ceaselessly; for the Soul, in ceaselessly attracting them to herself, endues them with a continual motion by which she carries them, not towards some other place, but towards herself, and in the same place, not in a straight line, but in a circle, and thus permits them to possess her in all the places which she traverses.
WHY THE HEAVENS DO NOT REMAIN STILL.
The heavens would be immovable if the Soul rested, that is, if she remained only in the intelligible world, where everything remains immovable. But because the Soul is in no one determinate place, and because the whole of her is everywhere, the heavens move through the whole of space; and as they cannot go out of themselves, they must move in a circle.
HOW OTHER BEINGS MOVE.
2. How do the other beings move? As none of them is the whole, but only a part, consequently, each finds itself situated in a particular place. On the contrary, the heavens are the whole; they constitute the place which excludes nothing, because it is the universe. As to the law according to which men move, each of them, considered in his dependence towards the universe, is a part of all; considered in himself, he is a whole.
WHY THE HEAVENS MOVE IN A CIRCLE.
Now, if the heavens possess the Soul, wherever they are, what urges them to move in a circle? Surely because the Soul is not exclusively in a determinate place (and the world does not exclusively in one place desire to possess her). Besides, if the power of the Soul revolve around the center, it is once more evident that the heavens would move in a circle.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CENTRE OF THE SOUL AND THE BODY.
Besides, when we speak of the Soul, we must not understand the term “center” in the same sense as when it is used of the body. For the Soul, the center is the focus of (the intelligence) whence radiates a second life (that is, the Soul); as to the body, it is a locality (the center of the world). Since, however, both soul and body need a center, we are forced to use this word in an analogous meaning which may suit both of them. Speaking strictly, however, a center can exist only for a spherical body, and the analogy consists in this, that the latter, like the Soul, effects a reflection upon itself. In this case, the Soul moves around the divinity, embraces Him, and clings to Him with all her might; for everything depends from Him. But, as she cannot unite herself to Him, she moves around Him.
THE ADDITION OF OUR BODIES INTRODUCES CONFLICTING MOTIONS.
Why do not all souls act like the universal Soul? They do act like her, but do so only in the place where they are. Why do our bodies not move in a circle, like the heavens? Because they include an element whose natural motion is rectilinear; because they trend towards other objects, because the spherical element in us can no longer easily move in a circle, because it has become terrestrial, while in the celestial region is was light and movable enough. How indeed could it remain at rest, while the Soul was in motion, whatever this movement was? This spirit(ual body) which, within us, is spread around the soul, does the same thing as do the heavens. Indeed, if the divinity be in everything, the Soul, which desires to unite herself to Him, must move around Him, since He resides in no determinate place. Consequently, Plato attributes to the stars, besides the revolution which they perform in common with the universe, a particular movement of rotation around their own center Indeed, every star, in whatever place it may be, is transported with joy while embracing the divinity; and this occurs not by reason, but by a natural necessity.
HOW MOTION IS IMPARTED TO LOWER EXISTENCES.
3. One more subject remains to be considered. The lowest power of the universal Soul (the inferior soul), rests on the earth, and thence radiates abroad throughout the universe. The (higher, or celestial) power (of the world-Soul) which, by nature, possesses sensation, opinion, and reasoning, resides in the celestial spheres, whence it dominates the inferior power, and communicates life to it. It thereby moves the inferior power, embracing it in a circle; and it presides over the universe as it returns (from the earth) to the celestial spheres. The inferior power, being circularly embraced by the superior power, reflects upon itself, and thus operates on itself a conversion by which it imparts a movement of rotation to the body within which it reacts. (This is how motion starts) in a sphere that is at rest: as soon as a part moves, the movement spreads to the rest of it, and the sphere begins to revolve. Not otherwise is our body; when our soul begins to move, as in joy, or in the expectation of welfare, although this movement be of a kind very different from that natural to a body, this soul-movement produces local motion in the body. Likewise the universal Soul, on high, while approaching the Good, and becoming more sensitive (to its proximity), thereby impresses the body with the motion proper to it, namely, the local movement. (Our own human) sense-(faculty), while receiving its good from above, and while enjoying the pleasures proper to its nature, pursues the Good, and, inasmuch as the Good is everywhere present, it is borne everywhere. The intelligence is moved likewise; it is simultaneously at rest and in motion, reflecting upon itself. Similarly the universe moves in a circle, though simultaneously standing still.
Ennead 2.3. Whether Astrology is of any Value.
OF THE INFLUENCE OF THE STARS.
1. It has been said that the course of the stars indicates what is to happen to each being; though, it does not, as many persons think, cause every event. To the supporting proofs hereof we are to add now more precise demonstrations, and new considerations, for the opinion held about this matter is no trifle.
VARIOUS PRETENSIONS OF ASTROLOGY.
Some people hold that, by their movements, the planets produce not only poverty and wealth, health and sickness, but even beauty and ugliness; and, what is more, vices and virtues. At every moment the stars, as if they were irritated against men, (are said to) force them to commit actions concerning which no blame attaches to the men who commit them, since they are compelled thereto by the influence of the planets. It is even believed that the cause of the planets’ doing us evil or good is not that they love or hate us; but that their dispositions towards us is good or evil according to the localities through which they travel. Towards us they change their disposition according as they are on the cardinal points or in declination therefrom. It is even held that while certain stars are maleficent, others are beneficent, and that, nevertheless, the former frequently grant us benefits, while the latter often become harmful. Their effects differ according to their being in opposition, just as if they were not self-sufficient, and as if their quality depended on whether or not they looked at each other. Thus a star’s (influence) may be good so long as it regards another, and evil when it does so no longer. A star may even consider another in different manners, when it is in such or such an aspect. Moreover, the totality of the stars exercises a mingled influence which differs from the individual influences, just as several liquors may form a compound possessing qualities differing from either of the component elements. As these and similar assertions are freely made, it becomes important to examine each one separately. This would form a proper beginning for our investigation.
ARE STARS INANIMATE?
2. Should we consider the stars to be animated, or not? If they be inanimate, they will be able to communicate only cold and heat; that is, if we grant the existence of cold influences. In this case, they will limit themselves to modifying the nature of our body, exercising on us a merely corporeal influence. They will not produce a great diversity among the bodies, since each of them exercises the same influence, and since, on the earth, their diverse actions are blended into a single one, which varies only by the diversity of locality, or by the proximity or distance of the objects. The same argument would hold on the hypothesis that the stars spread cold. But I could not understand how they could render some learned, others ignorant, making of some grammarians, others orators, musicians or experts in various arts. How could they exercise an action which would have no relation to the constitution of the bodies, such as giving us a father, a brother, a son, or a wife of such or such characteristics, or to make us successful, or make of us generals or kings?
ARE STARS ANIMATED?
On the contrary hypothesis, that the stars are animated, and act with reflection, what have we done to them that they should desire to harm us? Are they not dwellers of a divine region? Are they not themselves divine? Nor are they subjected to the influences that make men good or evil, nor could they experience good or evil as a result of our prosperity or our misfortunes.
COULD “CARDINAL POINTS” OR “DECLINATIONS” POSSESS ANY INFLUENCE?
3. In case, however, that the stars injure us only involuntarily, they are constrained thereunto by the aspects, and their localities. If so, they should, all of them, produce the same effects when they find themselves in the same localities or aspects. But what difference can occur in a planet according to its location in the zodiac? What does the zodiac itself experience? In fact, the planets are not located in the zodiac itself, but above or below it, at great distances. Besides, in whatever location they are, they all are ever in the heaven. Now it would be ridiculous to pretend that their effects differed according to their location in the heaven, and that they have an action differing according as they rise, culminate, or decline. It would be incredible that such a planet would feel joy when it culminates, sadness or feebleness when declining, anger at the rising of some other planet, or satisfaction at the latter’s setting. Can a star be better when it declines? Now a star culminates for some simultaneously with its declination for others; and it could not at the same time experience joy and sadness, anger and benevolence. It is sheer absurdity to assert that a star feels joy at its rising, while another feels the same at its setting; for this would really mean that the stars felt simultaneous joy and sadness. Besides, why should their sadness injure us? Nor can we admit that they are in turn joyous and sad, for they ever remain tranquil, content with the goods they enjoy, and the objects of their contemplation. Each of them lives for itself, finding its welfare in its own activity, without entering into relations with us. As they have no dealing with us, the stars exert their influence on us only incidentally, not as their chief purpose; rather, they bear no relation whatever to us; they announce the future only by coincidence, as birds announce it to the augurs.
ABSURDITY OF “ASPECTS,” AND “HOUSES.”
4. Nor is it any more reasonable to assert that the aspect of one planet makes one joyous, or the other sad. What animosity could obtain betwixt the stars? What could be its reason? Why should their condition be different when they are in trine aspect, or in opposition, or in quadrature? What reason have we to suppose that one star regards the other when it is in some particular aspect to it, or that it no more regards it when it is in the next zodiacal sign, though thus really closer to it?
Besides, what is the manner in which the planets exert the influence attributed to them? How does each exercise its own particular influence? How do they all, in combination, exert an influence that differs from this (particular influence)? In fact, they do not hold deliberations to carry out their decisions on us, each of them yielding a little of its individual influence. The one does not violently hinder the action of the other, nor does it condescendingly make concessions to it. To say that the one is joyous when it is in the “house” of the other, and that the latter is sad when it is in “house” of the former, amounts to saying that two men are united by mutual friendship, though the former love the latter, while the latter hate the former.
THE RELATIONS OF SATURN AND MARS QUITE ILLOGICAL.
5. The cold planet (Saturn) is said to be more beneficent for us when it is distant, because the evil that it produces on us is said to consist of its cold effluence; in which case our good should consist in the zodiacal signs opposite to us. It is also asserted that when the cold planet (Saturn) is in opposition to the warm planet (Mars), both become harmful; yet it would seem that their influences should neutralize each other. Besides, it is held that (Saturn) likes the day, whose heat renders it favorable to men, while (Mars) likes the night, because it is fiery, as if in heaven there did not reign a perpetual day, that is, a continual light; or as if a star could be plunged into the shadow (projected by the earth) when it is very distant from the earth.
FABULOUS INFLUENCES OF THE MOON.
It is said that the moon, in conjunction with (Saturn) is favorable when full, but harmful when otherwise. The opposite, however, ought to be the truth if the moon possess any influence. In fact, when it presents a full face, it presents its dark face to the planet above it (Saturn or Mars); when its disk decreases on our side, it increases on the other; therefore, it ought to exert a contrary influence when it decreases on our side, and when it increases on the side of the planet above it. These phases are of no importance for the moon, inasmuch as one of its sides is always lit. Nothing can result from it but for the planet which receives heat from it (Saturn); now this one will be heated whenever the moon turns towards us its dark side. Therefore, the moon is good for this planet when it is full towards it, but dark towards us. Besides, this obscurity of the moon for us can be of importance only for terrestrial things, not for the celestial . . . (?) . . . but if, because of its distance, it does not support the moon, then it must be in a worse predicament; when the moon is full, it is sufficient for terrestrial things, even when the moon is distant. . . . Finally, when the moon presents its obscure side to the fiery planet (Mars), it seems beneficent towards us; for the power of this planet, more fiery than (Saturn), is then sufficient by itself.
JUPITER, VENUS, AND MERCURY ALSO CONSIDERED ASTROLOGICALLY.
Besides, the bodies of the animated beings which move in the heaven may be of different degrees of heat; none of them is cold, as is witnessed to by their location. The planet named Jupiter is a suitable mixture of fire; likewise with Venus. That is why they seem to move harmoniously. As to the fiery planet Mars, it contributes its share to the mixture (of the general action of the stars). As to Saturn, its case is different, because of its distance. Mercury is indifferent, because it assimilates itself easily to all.
THE UNIVERSE AS A SINGLE HARMONY.
All these planets contribute to the Whole. Their mutual relation, therefore, is one suitable to the universe, just as the organs of an animal are shaped to take part in the organism they constitute. Take, for instance, a part of the body, such as the bile, which serves both the whole animal that contains it, and its special organ, inasmuch as it was necessary to arouse courage, and to oppose the injury of both the whole body, and its special organ. There had to be something similar (to bile) in the universe; that something sweet should soften it, that there be parts that would play the role of eyes, and that all things should possess mutual sympathy by their irrational life. Thus only is the universe one, and thus only is it constituted by a single harmony. How then could it be denied that all these things might be signs, resulting from the laws of analogy?
ABSURDITY OF VARIOUS ASTROLOGICAL THEORIES.
6. Is it not unreasonable to assert that Mars, or Venus, in a certain position, should produce adulteries? Such a statement attributes to them incontinence such as occurs only among man, and human passion to satisfy unworthy impulses. Or again, how could we believe that the aspects of planets is favorable when they regard each other in a certain manner? How can we avoid believing that their nature is determinate? What sort of an existence would be led by the planets if they occupied themselves with each single one of the innumerable ever-arising and passing beings, giving them each glory, wealth, poverty, or incontinence, and impelling all their actions? How could the single planets effect so many simultaneous results? Nor is it any more rational to suppose that the planets’ actions await the ascensions of the signs, nor to say that the ascension of a sign contains as many years as there are degrees of ascension in it. Absurd also is the theory that the planets calculate, as it were on their fingers, the period of time when they are to accomplish something, which before was forbidden. Besides, it is an error not to trace to a single principle the government of the universe, attributing everything to the stars, as if there were not a single Chief from which depends the universe, and who distributes to every being a part and functions suitable to its nature. To fail to recognize Him, is to destroy the order of which we form a part, it is to ignore the nature of the world, which presupposes a primary cause, a principle by whose activity everything is interpenetrated.
THE STARS ARE CHANGING SIGNS BETRAYING THE UNIVERSAL CONSPIRACY OF PURPOSE.
7. In fact, we would still have to ask ourselves for the cause of the events (in our world) even if the stars, like many other things, really prognosticated future events. We would still have to wonder at the maintenance of the order without which no events could be prefigured. We might, therefore, liken the stars to letters, at every moment flung along the heavens, and which, after having been displayed, continued in ceaseless motion, so that, while exercising another function in the universe, they would still possess significance.Thus in a being animated by a single principle it is possible to judge one part by another; as it is possible, by the study of the eyes or some other organ of an individual, to conclude as to his characters, to the dangers to which he is exposed, and how he may escape them. Just as our members are parts of our bodies, so are we ourselves parts of the universe. Things, therefore, are made for each other. Everything is significant, and the wise man can conclude from one thing to another. Indeed many habitual occurrences are foreseen by men generally. In the universe everything is reduced to a single system. To this co-ordination is due the possibility of birds furnishing us with omens, and other animals furnishing us with presages. All things mutually depend from each other. Everything conspires to a single purpose, not only in each individual, whose parts are perfectly related; but also in the universe, and that in a higher degree, and far earlier. This multiple being could be turned into a single universal Living organism only by a single principle. As in the human body every organ has its individual function, likewise in the universe each being plays its individual part; so much the more that they not only form part of the universe, but that they themselves also form universes not without importance. All things, therefore, proceed from a single principle, each plays its individual part, and lends each other mutual assistance. Neither are they separate from the universe, but they act and react on each other, each assisting or hindering the other. But their progress is not fortuitous, nor is it the result of chance. They form a series, where each, by a natural bond, is the effect of the preceding one, and the cause of the following one.
THERE IS A NATURAL LAW WHICH DIRECTS THE SOUL.
8. When the soul applies herself to carry out her proper function—for the soul effects everything, as far as she plays the part of a principle—she follows the straight road; when she loses her way the divine justice subjugates her to the physical order which reigns in the universe, unless the soul succeed in liberating herself. The divine justice reigns ever, because the universe is directed by the order and power of the dominating principle (the universal Soul). To this is joined the co-operation of the planets which are important parts of the heaven, either by embellishing it, or by serving as signs. Now they serve as signs for all things that occur in the sense-world. As to their potency, they should be credited only with what they effect indisputably.
WEALTH, POVERTY, AND VICES ARE THE RESULT OF EXTERNAL CIRCUMSTANCES.
As to us, we fill the functions of the soul in accordance with nature when we do not stray into the multiplicity contained in the universe. When we do stray therein, we are punished for it both by the straying itself, and by a less happy fate thereafter. Wealth and poverty, therefore, happen to us as effects of the operation of exterior things. As to the virtues and vices, virtues are derived from the primitive nature of the soul, while the vices result from dealings of the soul with exterior things. But this has been treated of elsewhere.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SPINDLE OF THE FATES.
9. This brings us to a consideration of the spindle, which, according to the ancients, is turned by the Fates, and by which Plato signifies that which, in the evolution of the world, moves, and that which is immovable. According to (Plato), it is the Fates, and their mother Necessity, which turn this spindle, and which impress it with a rotary motion in the generation of each being. It is by this motion that begotten beings arrive at generation. In the Timæus the (Intelligence, or) divinity which has created the universe gives the (immortal) principle of the soul, (the reasonable soul), and the deities which revolve in the heaven add (to the immortal principle of the soul) the violent passions which subject us to Necessity, namely, angers, desires, sufferings, and pleasures; in short, they furnish us with that other kind of soul (the animal nature, or vegetable soul) from which they derive these passions. Plato thus seems to subject us to the stars, by hinting that we receive from them our souls,subordinating to the sway of Necessity when we descend here below, both ourselves and our morals, and through these, the “actions” and “passions”which are derived from the passional habitof the soul (the animal nature).
WHICH OF OUR TWO SOULS IS THE GENUINE INDIVIDUALITY?
Our genuine selves are what is essentially “us”; we are the principle to which Nature has given the power to triumph over the passions. For, if we be surrounded by evils because of the body, nevertheless, the divinity has given us virtue, which “knows of no master”(is not subject to any compulsion). Indeed we need virtue not so much when we are in a calm state, but when its absence exposes us to evils. We must, therefore, flee from here below;we must divorce ourselves from the body added to us in generation, and apply ourselves to the effort to cease being this animal, this composite in which the predominant element is the nature of the body, a nature which is only a trace of the soul, and which causes animal lifeto pertain chiefly to the body. Indeed, all that relates to this life is corporeal. The other soul (the reasonable soul, which is superior to the vegetative soul), is not in the body; she rises to the beautiful, to the divine, and to all the intelligible things, which depend on nothing else. She then seeks to identify herself with them, and lives conformably to the divinity when retired within herself (in contemplation). Whoever is deprived of this soul (that is, whoever does not exercise the faculties of the reasonable soul), lives in subjection to fatality.Then the actions of such a being are not only indicated by the stars, but he himself becomes a part of the world, and he depends on the world of which he forms a part. Every man is double,for every man contains both the composite (organism), and the real man (which constitutes the reasonable soul).
NUMENIAN DOUBLENESS, MIXTURE, AND DIVISIBLE SOUL.
Likewise the universe is a compound of a body and of a Soul intimately united to it, and of the universal Soul, which is not in the Body, and which irradiates the Soul united to the Body.There is a similar doubleness in the sun and the other stars, (having a soul united to their body, and a soul independent thereof). They do nothing that is shameful for the pure soul. The things they produce are parts of the universe, inasmuch as they themselves are parts of the universe, and inasmuch as they have a body, and a soul united to this body; but their will and their real soul apply themselves to the contemplation of the good Principle. It is from this Principle, or rather from that which surrounds it, that other things depend, just as the fire radiates its heat in all directions, and as the superior Soul (of the universe) infuses somewhat of her potency into the lower connected soul. The evil things here below originate in the mixture inhering in the nature of this world. After separating the universal Soul out of the universe, the remainder would be worthless. Therefore, the universe is a deity if the Soul that is separable from it be included within its substance. The remainder constitutes the guardian which (Plato) names the Great Guardian,and which, besides, possesses all the passions proper to guardians.
STARS ANNOUNCE EVENTS BECAUSE OF THE SOUL’S MANY IMPERFECTIONS, AND ACCIDENTS.
10. Under these circumstances, we must acknowledge that events are, by the stars, announced, though not produced, not even by their (lower) corporeal soul. By their lower part, their body,they produce only the things which are passions of the universe. Besides, we shall have to acknowledge, that the soul, even before entering into generation, while descending here below, brings something which she has by herself; for she would not enter into a body unless she had a great disposition to suffer.We must also admit that while passing into a body the soul is exposed to accidents, inasmuch as she is subjected to the course of the universe, and as this very course contributes to the production of what the universe is to accomplish; for the things which are comprised in the course of the universe act as its parts.
THE INFLUENCES OF THE STARS DEGENERATE AS THEY REACH US.
11. We must also reflect that the impressions which we derive from the stars do not reach us in the same condition in which they leave them. Just as fire in us is much degenerated from that in the heaven, so sympathy, degenerating within the receiving person, begets an unworthy affection. Courage produces in those who do not possess it in the proper proportions, either violence or cowardliness. Love of the beautiful and good thus becomes the search for what only appears so. Discernment, in undergoing this degradation, becomes the trickiness which seeks to equal it, without succeeding in doing so. Thus all these qualities become evil in us, without being such in the stars. All the impressions we receive thereof are in us not such as they are in the stars; besides they are still further degraded by mingling with the bodies, with matter, and with each other.
MINGLED STAR ACTION ONLY PROMOTES OR RETARDS PROCESSES ALREADY NATURAL.
12. The influences proceeding from the stars commingle; and this mixture modifies all generated things, determining their nature and qualities.It is not the celestial influence which produces the horse, it is limited to exercising an influence upon him; for,the horse is begotten from horse, man from man; the sun can only contribute to their formation. Man is born from the (seminal logos), or reason of man; but the circumstances may be favorable or unfavorable to him. In fact, a son resembles the father, though he may be formed better or worse; but never does he entirely detach himself from matter. Sometimes, however, the matter so prevails over nature that the being is imperfect because the form does not dominate.
DISTINCTION BETWEEN WHAT IS AND WHAT IS NOT PRODUCED BY THE STARS.
13. We must now distinguish, decide and express the origin of various things, inasmuch as there are some things that are produced by the course of the stars, and others that are not. Our principle is that the Soul governs the universe by Reason, just as each animal is governed by the principle (the reason) which fashions his organs, and harmonizes them with the whole of which they are parts;now the All contains everything, while the parts contain only what is individual to them. As to exterior influences, some assist, while others oppose the tendency of nature. All things are subordinated to the All because they are parts of it; by their co-operation, each with its own nature and their particular tendencies they form the total life of the universe.The inanimate beings serve as instruments for the others that set them in motion by a mechanical impulse. Irrational animated beings move indeterminately; such as horses attached to a chariot before the driver indicates which direction they are to follow; for they need the whip to be directed. The nature of the reasonable animal contains the directing driver;if the driver be skillful, it follows the straight road, instead of going blindly at chance, as often happens. Beings gifted with reason and those that lack it are both contained within the universe, and contribute to the formation of the whole. Those which are more powerful, and which occupy a more elevated rank do many important things, and co-operate in the life of the universe where their part is active, rather than passive. The passive ones act but little. Those of intermediary rank are passive in regard to some, and often active in regard to others, because they themselves possess the power of action and production (the stars, the brutes, and men.).
THE STARS AS THE FOLLOWERS OF THE UNIVERSAL KING.
The universe leads an universal and perfect life, because the good principles (the star-Souls) produce excellency, that is, the more excellent part in every object.These principles are subordinate to the Soul that governs the universe, as soldiers are to their general; consequently, (Plato) describes this by the figure of the attendants of Jupiter (the universal Soul) advancing to the contemplation of the intelligible world.
MEN AS SOULS OF THE SECOND RANK.
The beings which possess a nature inferior to the star-Souls, that is, men, occupy the second rank in the universe, and play in it the same part played in us by the second power of the soul (the discursive reason). The other beings, that is, the animals, occupy about the same rank occupied in us by the lowest (or vegetative) power of the soul; for all these powers in us are not of equal rank.Consequently, all the beings which are in the heaven, or which are distributed in the universe are animated beings, and derive their life from the total Reason of the universe (because it contains the “seminal reasons” of all living beings). None of the parts of the universe, whatever be its greatness, possesses the power of altering the reasons, nor the beings engendered with the co-operation of these reasons. It may improve or degrade these beings, but cannot deprive them of their individual nature. It degrades them by injuring either their body or their soul; which occurs when an accident becomes a cause of vice for the soul which partakes of the passions of the body (the sensitive and vegetative soul) and which is given over to the inferior principle (to the animal) by the superior principle (the reasonable soul); or when the body, by its poor organization, hinders the actions in which the soul needs its co-operation; then it resembles a badly attuned lyre, which is incapable of producing sounds which could form a perfect harmony.
ANY OCCURRENCE MAY BE DUE TO MANY DIFFERENT CAUSES.
14. Poverty, wealth, glory, and authoritative positions may have many different causes. If a man derive his wealth from his parents, the stars have only announced that he would be rich; and they would have only announced his nobility if he owed his wealth to his birth. If a man acquire wealth by his merit, in some way in which his body contributed thereto, the causes of his bodily vigor co-operated in his fortune; first his parents, then his fatherland, if it be possessed of a good climate, and last the fertility of the soil.If this man owe his wealth to virtue, this source should be considered exclusive; and likewise with the transitory advantages he may by divine favor possess. Even if his wealth be derived from virtuous persons, still, in another way, his fortune is due to virtue. If his wealth were derived from evil men, though by a just means, yet the wealth proceeds from a good principle which was active in them. Finally, if a man who has amassed wealth be evil, the cause of his fortune is this very wickedness, and the principle from which it derives; even those who may have given him money must be included in the order of its causes. If a man owe his wealth to labor, such as agricultural work, the causes of the wealth include the care of the ploughman and the co-operation of exterior circumstances. Even if he found a treasure, it is something in the universe which contributed thereto. Besides, this discovery may have been foretold; for all things concatenate with everything else, and, consequently, announce each other. If a man scatter his wealth, he is the cause of their loss; if his wealth be taken from him, the cause is the man who takes it. Many are the contributory causes of a shipwreck. Glory may be acquired justly or unjustly. Just glory is due to services rendered, or to the esteem of other people. Unjust glory is caused by the injustice of those who glorify that man. Deserved power is due to the good sense of the electors, or to the activity of the man who acquired it by the co-operation of his friends, or to any other circumstance. A marriage is determined by a preference, or by some accidental circumstance, or by the co-operation of several circumstances. The procreation of children is one of its consequences; it occurs in accordance with the (“seminal) reason,” in case it meet no obstacle; if it be defective, there must be some interior defect in the pregnant mother, or the fault lies in the impotence of the father.
A SOUL’S DESTINY DEPENDS ON THE CONDITION OF THE UNIVERSE AT BIRTH.
15. Plato speaks of the lots, and conditions chosen by one turn of the spindle (of Clotho); he speaks also of a guardian who helps each man to fulfill his destiny. These conditions are the disposition of the universe at the time of the soul’s entrance into the body, the nature of their body, parents and fatherland; in short, the aggregate of external circumstances. Evidently all these things, in detail as well as in totality, are simultaneously produced and related by one of the Fates, namely Clotho. Lachesis then presents the conditions to the souls. Finally Atropos renders the accomplishment of all the circumstances of each destiny irrevocable.
HOW SOME MEN MAY MASTER THEIR FATE: BY SELF-VICTORY.
Some men, fascinated by the universe and exterior objects, completely or partially abdicate their freedom.Others, dominating their environment, raise their head to the sky, and freeing themselves from exterior circumstances, release that better part of their souls which forms their primitive being. As to the latter point, it would be wrong to think that the nature of the soul was determined by the passions aroused in her by external objects, and that she did not possess her own individual nature. On the contrary, as she plays the part of a principle, she possesses, much more than other things, faculties suitable to accomplish actions suitable to her nature. Since she is a being, the soul necessarily possesses appetites, active faculties, and the power of living well.The aggregate (of the soul and body, the organism) depends on the nature which formed it, and from it receives its qualities and actions. If the soul separate from the body, she produces actions which are suitable to her nature, and which do not depend from the body; she does not appropriate the credit for the passions of the body, because she recognizes the difference of her nature.
EXACT PSYCHOLOGY AT THE ROOT OF PHILOSOPHY.
16. What is the mingled, and what is the pure part of the soul? What part of the soul is separable? What part is not separable so long as the soul is in a body? What is the animal? This subject will have to be studied elsewhere,for there is practically no agreement on the subject. For the present, let us explain in which sense we above said that the soul governs the universe by Reason.
IS THE UNIVERSAL SOUL CREATIVE, BUT NOT PRESERVATIVE?
Does the universal Soul form all the beings successively, first man, then the horse, then some other animal, and last the wild beasts?Does she begin by producing earth and fire; then, seeing the co-operation of all these things which mutually destroy or assist each other, does she consider only their totality and their connections, without regarding the accidents which occur to them later? Does she limit herself to the reproduction of preceding generations of animals, and does she leave these exposed to the passions with which they inspire each other?
DETERMINISM IMPLIES DEGENERATION OF RACES.
Does the “reason” of each individual contain both his “actions” and “reactions”in a way such that these are neither accidental nor fortuitous, but necessary?Are these produced by the reasons? Or do the reasons know them, without producing them? Or does the soul, which contains the generative “reasons,”know the effects of all her works by reasoning according to the following principle, that the concourse of the same circumstances must evidently produce the same effects? If so, the soul, understanding or foreseeing the effects of her works, by them determines and concatenates all the events that are to happen. She, therefore, considers all the antecedents and consequents, and foresees what is to follow from what precedes.It is (because the beings thus proceed from each other) that the races continually degenerate. For instance, men degenerate because in departing continually and unavoidably (from the primitive type) the (“seminal) reasons” yield to the “passions” of matter.
THE SOUL DOES NOT CAUSE PASSIONS, WHICH ARISE FROM THE SEMINAL REASONS.
Is the soul the cause of these passions, because she begets the beings that produce them? Does the soul then consider the whole sequence of events, and does she pass her existence watching the “passions” experienced by her works? Does she never cease thinking of the latter, does she never put on them the finishing touch, regulating them so that they should always go well?Does she resemble some farmer who, instead of limiting himself to sowing and planting, should ceaselessly labor to repair the damage caused by the rains, the winds, and the storms? Unless this hypothesis be absurd, it must be admitted that the soul knows in advance, or even that the (“seminal)reasons” contain accidents which happen to begotten beings, that is, their destruction and all the effects of their faults.In this case, we are obliged to say that the faults are derived from the (“seminal) reasons,” although the arts and their reasons contain neither error, fault, nor destruction of a work of art.
THE UNIVERSE IS HARMONY,IN SPITE OF THE FAULTS IN THE DETAILS.
It might here be objected that there could not be in the universe anything bad or contrary to nature; and it must be acknowledged that even what seems less good still has its utility. If this seem to admit that things that are less good contribute to the perfection of the universe, and that there is no necessity that all things be beautiful,it is only because the very contraries contribute to the perfection of the universe, and so the world could not exist without them. It is likewise with all living beings. The (“seminal) reason” necessarily produces and forms what is better; what is less good is contained in the “potentiality” of the “reasons,” and “actualized” in the begotten beings. The (universal) Soul has, therefore, no need to busy herself therewith, nor to cause the “reasons” to become active. For the “reasons” successfully subdue matter to what is better (the forms), even though matter alters what it receives by imparting a shock to the “reasons” that proceed from the higher principles. All things, therefore, form a harmonious totality because they simultaneously proceed from matter, and the “reasons” which beget them.
THE METHOD OF CREATION.
17. Let us examine if the “reasons” contained in the Soul are thoughts. How could the Soul produce by thoughts? It is the Reason which produces in matter; but the principle that produces naturally is neither a thought nor an intuition, but a power that fashions matter unconsciously, just as a circle gives water a circular figure and impression. Indeed, the natural generative power has the function of production; but it needs the co-operation of the governing (principle) of the Soul, which forms and which causes the activity of the generative soul engaged in matter. If the governing power of the Soul form the generative soul by reasoning, it will be considering either another object, or what it possesses in herself. If the latter be the case, she has no need of reasoning,for it is not by reasoning that the Soul fashions matter, but by the power which contains the reasons, the power which alone is effective, and capable of production. The Soul, therefore, produces by the forms. The forms she transmits are by her received from the Intelligence. This Intelligence, however, gives the forms to the universal Soul which is located immediately below her, and the universal Soul transmits them to the inferior soul (the natural generative power), fashioning and illuminating her. The inferior soul then produces, at one time without meeting any obstacles, at others, when doing so, although, in the latter case, she produces things less perfect. As she has received the power of production, and as she contains the reasons which are not the first (the “seminal reasons,” which are inferior to the Ideas) not only does she, by virtue of what she has received, produce, but she also draws from herself something which is evidently inferior (matter).It doubtless produces a living being (the universe), but a living being which is less perfect, and which enjoys life much less, because it occupies the last rank, because it is coarse and hard to manage, because the matter which composes it is, as it were, the bitterness or the superior principles, because it spreads its bitterness around her, and communicates some of it to the universe.
EVILS ARE NECESSARY TO THE PERFECTION OF THE UNIVERSE.
18. Must the evils in the universe be considered as necessary,because they are the consequences of the superior principles? Yes, for without them the universe would be imperfect. The greater number of evils, if not all of them, are useful to the universe; such as the venomous animals; though they often ignore their real utility. Even wickedness is useful in certain respects, and can produce many beautiful things; for example, it leads to fine inventions, it forces men to prudence, and does not let them fall asleep in an indolent security.
PICTURE OF THE STRUCTURE OF THE UNIVERSE.
Under these circumstances, it is plain that the universal Soul ever contemplates the better principles, because it is turned towards the intelligible world, and towards the divinity. As she fills herself with God, and is filled with God, she, as it were, overflows over her image, namely, the power which holds the last rank (the natural generative power), and which, consequently, is the last creative power. Above this creative power is the power of the Soul which immediately receives the forms from the Intelligence. Above all is the Intelligence, the Demiurge, who gives the forms to the universal Soul, and the latter impresses its traces on the third-rank power (the natural generative power).This world, therefore, is veritably a picture which perpetually pictures itself. The two first principles are immovable; the third is also immovable (in essence); but it is engaged in matter, and becomes immovable (only) by accident. As long as the Intelligence and the Soul subsist, the “reasons” flow down into this image of the Soul (the natural generative power); likewise, so long as the sun subsists, all light emanates therefrom.
Ennead 2.4. Of Matter.
MATTER AS SUBSTRATE AND RESIDENCE OF FORMS.
1. Matter is a substrate (or subject) underlying nature, as thought Aristotle, and a residence for forms. Thus much is agreed upon by all authors who have studied matter, and who have succeeded in forming a clear idea of this kind of nature; but further than this, there is no agreement. Opinions differ as to whether matter is an underlying nature (as thought Aristotle), as to its receptivity, and to what it is receptive.
THE STOIC CONCEPTION OF MATTER.
(The Stoics, who condensed Aristotle’s categories to four, substrate, quality-mode and relation), who admit the existence of nothing else than bodies, acknowledge no existence other than that contained by bodies. They insist that there is but one kind of matter, which serves as substrate to the elements, and that it constitutes “being”; that all other things are only affections (“passions”) of matter, or modified matter: as are the elements. The teachers of this doctrine do not hesitate to introduce this matter into the (very nature of the) divinities, so that their supreme divinity is no more than modified matter. Besides, of matter they make a body, calling it a “quantityless body,” still attributing to it magnitude.
MATTER ACCORDING TO THE PYTHAGOREANS, PLATONISTS AND ARISTOTELIANS.
Others (Pythagoreans, Platonists and Aristotelians) insist that matter is incorporeal. Some even distinguish two kinds of matter, first, the (Stoic) substrate of bodies, mentioned above; the other matter being of a superior nature, the substrate of forms and incorporeal beings.
THE ARISTOTELIAN INTELLIGIBLE MATTER.
2. Let us first examine whether this (latter intelligible) matter exists, how it exists, and what it is. If (the nature) of matter be something indeterminate, and shapeless, and if in the perfect (intelligible beings) there must not be anything indeterminate or shapeless, it seems as if there could not be any matter in the intelligible world. As every (being) is simple, it could not have any need of matter which, by uniting with something else, constitutes something composite. Matter is necessary in begotten beings, which make one thing arise out of another; for it is such beings that have led to the conception of matter (as thought Aristotle). It may however be objected that in unbegotten beings matter would seem useless. Whence could it have originated to enter in (among intelligible beings), and remain there? If it were begotten, it must have been so by some principle; if it be eternal, it must have had several principles; in which case the beings that occupy the first rank would seem to be contingent. Further, if (in those beings) form come to join matter, their union will constitute a body, so that the intelligible (entities) will be corporeal.
INTELLIGIBLE MATTER IS NOT SHAPELESS.
3. To this it may first be answered that the indeterminate should not be scorned everywhere, nor that which is conceived of as shapeless, even if this be the substrate of the higher and better entities; for we might call even the soul indeterminate, in respect to intelligence and reason, which give it a better shape and nature. Besides, when we say that intelligible things are composite (of matter and form), this is not in the sense in which the word is used of bodies. Even reasons would thus be called composite, and by their actualization form another alleged composite, nature, which aspires to form. If, in the intelligible world, the composite tend toward some other principle, or depend thereon, the difference between this composite and bodies is still better marked. Besides, the matter of begotten things ceaselessly changes form, while the matter of the intelligible entities ever remains identical. Further, matter here below is subject to other conditions (than in the intelligible world). Here below, indeed, matter is all things only partly, and is all things only successively; consequently, amidst these perpetual changes nothing is identical, nothing is permanent. Above, on the contrary, matter is all things simultaneously, and possessing all things, could not transform itself. Consequently, matter is never shapeless above; for it is not even shapeless here below. Only the one (intelligible matter) is situated differently from the other (sense-matter). Whether, however, (intelligible matter) be begotten, or be eternal, is a question that cannot be determined until we know what it is.
THE NATURE OF IDEAS IMPLIES AN INDIVIDUAL FORM, WHICH AGAIN IMPLIES A SUBSTRATE.
4. Granting now the existence of ideas, whose reality has been demonstrated elsewhere, we must draw their legitimate consequences. Necessarily ideas have something in common, inasmuch as they are manifold; and since they differ from each other, they must also have something individual. Now the individuality of any idea, the difference that distinguishes it from any other, consists of its particular shape. But form, to be received, implies a substrate, that might be determined by the difference. There is therefore always a matter that receives form, and there is always a substrate (even in ideas, whose matter is genus, and whose form is its difference).
RELYING ON THE PUN BETWEEN WORLD AND ADORNMENT, PLOTINUS CONCLUDES THAT IF THE INTELLIGIBLE WORLD BE THE IMAGE OF THIS, IT MUST ALSO BE A COMPOSITE OF FORM AND MATTER.
Besides, our world is an image of the intelligible world. Now as our world is a composite of matter (and form), there must be matter also on high (that is, in the intelligible world). Otherwise, how could we call the intelligible world “kosmos” (that is, either world, or adornment), unless we see matter (receiving) form therein? How could we find form there, without (a residence) that should receive it? That world is indivisible, taken in an absolute sense; but in a relative sense, is it divisible? Now if its parts be distinct from each other, their division or distinction is a passive modification of matter; for what can be divided, must be matter. If the multitude of ideals constitute an indivisible being, this multitude, which resides in a single being, has this single being as substrate, that is, as matter and is its shapes. This single, yet varied substrate conceives of itself as shapeless, before conceiving of itself as varied. If then by thought you abstract from it variety, forms, reasons, and intelligible characteristics, that which is prior is indeterminate and shapeless; then there will remain in this (subject) none of the things that are in it and with it.
THE BOTTOM OF EVERYTHING IS MATTER, WHICH IS RELATIVE DARKNESS.
5. If, we were to conclude that there were no matter in intelligible entities, because they were immutable, and because, in them, matter is always combined with (shape), we would be logically compelled to deny the existence of matter in bodies; for the matter of bodies always has a form, and every body is always complete (containing a form and a matter). Each body, however, is none the less composite, and intelligence observes its doubleness; for it splits until it arrives to simplicity, namely, to that which can no longer be decomposed; it does not stop until it reaches the bottom things. Now the bottom of each thing is matter. Every matter is dark, because the reason (the form) is the light, and because intelligence is the reason. When, in an object, intelligence considers the reason, it considers as dark that which is below reason, or light. Likewise, the eye, being luminous, and directing its gaze on light and on the colors which are kinds of light, considers what is beneath, and hidden by the colors, as dark and material.
INTELLIGIBLE MATTER CONSISTS OF REAL BEING, ESPECIALLY AS SHAPED.
Besides, there is a great difference between the dark bottom of intelligible things and that of sense-objects; there is as much difference between the matter of the former and of the latter as there is between their form. The divine matter, on receiving the form that determines it, possesses an intellectual and determinate life. On the contrary, even when the matter of the bodies becomes something determinate, it is neither alive nor thinking; it is dead, in spite of its borrowed beauty. As the shape (of sense-objects) is only an image, their substrate also is only an image. But as the shape (of intelligible entities) possesses veritable (reality), their substrate is of the same nature. We have, therefore, full justification for calling matter “being,” that is, when referring to intelligible matter; for the substrate of intelligible entities really is “being,” especially if conceived of together with its inherent (form). For “being” is the luminous totality (or complex of matter and form). To question the eternity of intelligible matter is tantamount to questioning that of ideas; indeed, intelligible entities are begotten in the sense that they have a principle; but they are non-begotten in the sense that their existence had no beginning, and that, from all eternity, they derive their existence from their principle. Therefore they do not resemble the things that are always becoming, as our world; but, like the intelligible world, they ever exist.
THE CATEGORIES OF MOVEMENT AND DIFFERENCE APPLIED TO INTELLIGIBLES.
The difference that is in the intelligible world ever produces matter; for, in that world, it is the difference that is the principle of matter, as well as of primary motion. That is why the latter is also called difference, because difference and primary motion were born simultaneously.
The movement and difference, that proceed from the First (the Good), are indeterminate, and need it, to be determinate. Now they determine each other when they turn towards it. Formerly, matter was as indeterminate as difference; it was not good because it was not yet illuminated by the radiance of the First. Since the First is the source of all light, the object that receives light from the First does not always possess light; this object differs from light, and possesses light as something alien, because it derives light from some other source. That is the nature of matter as contained in intelligible (entities). Perhaps this treatment of the subject is longer than necessary.
SUBSTRATE IS DEMANDED BY TRANSFORMATION OF ELEMENTS, BY THEIR DESTRUCTION AND DISSOLUTION.
6. Now let us speak of bodies. The mutual transformation of elements demonstrates that they must have a substrate. Their transformation is not a complete destruction; otherwise (a general) “being” would perish in nonentity. Whereas, what is begotten would have passed from absolute nonentity to essence; and all change is no more than the passing of one form into another (as thought Aristotle). It presupposes the existence of permanent (subject) which would receive the form of begotten things only after having lost the earlier form. This is demonstrated by destruction, which affects only something composite; therefore every dissolved object must have been a composite. Dissolution proves it also. For instance, where a vase is dissolved, the result is gold; on being dissolved, gold leaves water; and so analogy would suggest that the dissolution of water would result in something else, that is analogous to its nature. Finally, elements necessarily are either form, or primary matter, or the composites of form and matter. However, they cannot be form, because, without matter, they could not possess either mass nor magnitude. Nor can they be primary matter, because they are subject to destruction. They must therefore be composites of form and matter; form constituting their shape and quality, and matter a substrate that is indeterminate, because it is not a form.
THE VIEWS OF EMPEDOCLES AND ANAXAGORAS ON MATTER.
7. (According to Aristotle), Empedocles thinks matter consists of elements; but this opinion is refuted by the decay to which they are exposed. (According to Aristotle), Anaxagoras supposes that matter is a mixture and, instead of saying that this (mixture) is capable of becoming all things, he insists that it contains all things in actualization. Thus he annihilates the intelligence that he had introduced into the world; for, according to him, it is not intelligence that endows all the rest with shape and form; it is contemporaneous with matter, instead of preceding it. Now it is impossible for intelligence to be the contemporary of matter, for if mixture participate in essence, then must essence precede it; if, however, essence itself be the mixture, they will need some third principle. Therefore if the demiurgic creator necessarily precede, what need was there for the forms in miniature to exist in matter, for intelligence to unravel their inextricable confusion, when it is possible to predicate qualities of matter, because matter had none of its own, and thus to subject matter entirely to shape? Besides, how could (the demiurgic creator) then be in all?
REFUTATION OF ANAXIMANDER’S VIEWS ABOUT MATTER.
(Anaximander) had better explain the consistence of the infinity by which he explains matter. Does he, by infinity, mean immensity? In reality this would be impossible. Infinity exists neither by itself, nor in any other nature, as, for instance, the accident of a body. The infinite does not exist by itself, because each of its parts would necessarily be infinite. Nor does the infinite exist as an accident, because that of which it would be an accident would, by itself, be neither infinite, nor simple; and consequently, would not be matter.
REFUTATION OF DEMOCRITUS’S ATOMS AS EXPLANATIONS OF MATTER.
(According to Aristotle’s account of Democritus), neither could the atoms fulfill the part of matter because they are nothing (as before thought Cicero). Every body is divisible to infinity. (Against the system of the atoms) might further be alleged the continuity and humidity of bodies. Besides nothing can exist without intelligence and soul, which could not be composed of atoms. Nothing with a nature different from the atoms could produce anything with the atoms, because no demiurgic creator could produce something with a matter that lacked continuity. Many other objections against this system have and can be made; but further discussion is unnecessary.
MATTER IS NOTHING COMPOSITE, BUT BY NATURE SIMPLE AND ONE.
8. What then is this matter which is one, continuous, and without qualities? Evidently, it could not be a body, since it has no quality; if it were a body, it would have a quality. We say that it is the matter of all sense-objects, and not the matter of some, and the form of others, just as clay is matter, in respect to the potter, without being matter absolutely (as thought Aristotle). As we are not considering the matter of any particular object, but the matter of all things, we would not attribute to its nature anything of what falls under our senses—no quality, color, heat, cold, lightness, weight, density, sparseness, figure or magnitude; for magnitude is something entirely different from being large, and figure from the figured object. Matter therefore is not anything composite, but something simple, and by nature one (according to the views of Plato and Aristotle combined). Only thus could matter be deprived of all properties (as it is).
MATTER AND THE INFORMING PRINCIPLE MUST BE CONTEMPORARIES TO ACCOUNT FOR THEIR MUTUAL RELATIONS.
The principle which informs matter will give it form as something foreign to its nature; it will also introduce magnitude and all the real properties. Otherwise, it would be enslaved to the magnitude of matter, and could not decide of the magnitude of matter, and magnitude would be dependent on the disposition of matter. A theory of a consultation between it and the magnitude of matter would be an absurd fiction. On the contrary, if the efficient cause precede matter, matter will be exactly as desired by the efficient cause, and be capable of docilely receiving any kind of form, including magnitude. If matter possessed magnitude, it would also possess figure, and would thus be rather difficult to fashion. Form therefore enters into matter by importing into it (what constitutes corporeal being); now every form contains a magnitude and a quantity which are determined by reason (“being”), and with reason. That is why in all kinds of beings, quantity is determined only along with form; for the quantity (the magnitude) of man is not the quantity of the bird. It would be absurd to insist on the difference between giving to matter the quantity of a bird, and impressing its quality on it, that quality is a reason, while quantity is not a form; for quantity is both measure and number.
ANTI-STOIC POLEMIC, AGAINST THE CORPOREITY OF MATTER AND QUANTITY.
9. It may be objected that it would be impossible to conceive of something without magnitude. The fact is that not everything is identical with quantity. Essence is distinct from quantity; for many other things beside it exist. Consequently no incorporeal nature has any quantity. Matter, therefore, is incorporeal. Besides, even quantity itself is not quantative, which characterizes only what participates in quantity (in general); a further proof that quantity is a form, as an object becomes white by the presence of whiteness; and as that which, in the animal, produces whiteness and the different colors, is not a varied color, but a varied reason; likewise that which produces a quantity is not a definite quantity, but either quantity in itself, or quantity as such, or the reason of quantity. Does quantity, on entering into matter extend matter, so as to give it magnitude? By no means, for matter had not been condensed. Form therefore imparts to matter the magnitude which it did not possess, just as form impresses on matter the quality it lacked.
BY ABSTRACTION, THE SOUL CAN FIND AND DESCRY THE QUALITY-LESS THING-IN-ITSELF: THIS PROCESS IS CALLED “BASTARD REASONING.”
10. (Some objector) might ask how one could conceive of matter without quantity? This might be answered by a retort. How then do you (as you do) manage to conceive of it without quality? Do you again object, by what conception or intelligence could it be reached? By the very indetermination of the soul. Since that which knows must be similar to that which is known (as Aristotle quotes from Empedocles), the indeterminate must be grasped by the indeterminate. Reason, indeed, may be determined in respect to the indeterminate; but the glance which reason directs on the indeterminate itself is indeterminate. If everything were known by reason and by intelligence, reason here tells us about matter what reason rightly should tell us about it. By wishing to conceive of matter in an intellectual manner, intelligence arrives at a state which is the absence of intelligence, or rather, reason forms of matter a “bastard” or “illegitimate” image, which is derived from the other, which is not true, and which is composed of the other (deceptive material called) reason. That is why Plato said that matter is perceived by a “bastard reasoning.” In what does the indetermination of the soul consist? In an absolute ignorance, or in a complete absence of all knowledge? No: the indeterminate condition of the soul implies something positive (besides something negative). As for the eye, darkness is the matter of all invisible color, so the soul, by making abstraction in sense-objects of all things that somehow are luminous, cannot determine what then remains; and likewise, as the eye, in darkness (becomes assimilated to darkness), the soul becomes assimilated to what she sees. Does she then see anything else? Doubtless, she sees something without figure, without color, without light, or even without magnitude. If this thing had any magnitude, the soul would lend it a form.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MENTAL BLANK AND IMPRESSION OF THE SHAPELESS.
(An objector might ask) whether there be identity of conditions between the soul’s not thinking, and her experience while thinking of matter? By no means; when the soul is not thinking of anything, she neither asserts anything, nor experiences anything. When she thinks of matter, she experiences something, she receives the impression of the shapeless. When she presents to herself objects that possess shape and magnitude, she conceives of them as composite; for she sees them as distinct (or, colored?) and determined by qualities they contain. She conceives of both the totality and its two constituent elements. She also has a clear perception, a vivid sensation of properties inherent (in matter). On the contrary, the soul receives only an obscure perception of the shapeless subject, for there is no form there. Therefore, when the soul considers matter in general, in the composite, with the qualities inherent in this composite, she separates them, analyzes them, and what is left (after this analysis), the soul perceives it vaguely, and obscurely, because it is something vague and obscure; she thinks it, without really thinking it. On the other hand, as matter does not remain shapeless, as it is always shaped, within objects, the soul always imposes on matter the form of things, because only with difficulty does she support the indeterminate, since she seems to fear to fall out of the order of beings, and to remain long in nonentity.
THE COMPOSITION OF A BODY NEEDS A SUBSTRATE.
11. (Following the ideas of Aristotle, Plotinus wonders whether some objector) will ask whether the composition of a body requires anything beyond extension and all the other qualities? Yes: it demands a substrate to receive them (as a residence). This substrate is not a mass; for in this case, it would be an extension. But if this substrate have no extension, how can it be a residence (for form)? Without extension, it could be of no service, contributing neither to form nor qualities, to magnitude nor extension. It seems that extension, wherever it be, is given to bodies by matter. Just as actions, effects, times and movements, though they do not imply any matter, nevertheless are beings, it would seem that the elementary bodies do not necessarily imply matter (without extension), being individual beings, whose diverse substance is constituted by the mingling of several forms. Matter without extension, therefore, seems to be no more than a meaningless name.
MATTER AS THE IMAGE OF EXTENSION, CAN YET BE RESIDENCE OF FORM.
(Our answer to the above objection is this:) To begin with, not every residence is necessarily a mass, unless it have already received extension. The soul, which possesses all things, contains them all simultaneously. If it possessed extension, it would possess all things in extension. Consequently matter receives all it contains in extension, because it is capable thereof. Likewise in animals and plants there is a correspondence between the growth and diminution of their magnitude, with that of their quality. It would be wrong to claim that magnitude is necessary to matter because, in sense-objects, there exists a previous magnitude, on which is exerted the action of the forming principle; for the matter of these objects is not pure matter, but individual matter (as said Aristotle). Matter pure and simple must receive its extension from some other principle. Therefore the residence of form could not be a mass; for in receiving extension, it would also receive the other qualities. Matter therefore, is the image of extension, because as it is primary matter, it possesses the ability to become extended. People often imagine matter as empty extension; consequently several philosophers have claimed that matter is identical with emptiness. I repeat: matter is the image of extension because the soul, when considering matter, is unable to determine anything, spreads into indetermination, without being able to circumscribe or mark anything; otherwise, matter would determine something. This substrate could not properly be called big or little; it is simultaneously big and little (as said Aristotle). It is simultaneously extended and non-extended, because it is the matter of extension. If it were enlarged or made smaller, it would somehow move in extension. Its indetermination is an extension which consists in being the very residence of extension, but really in being only imaginary extension, as has been explained above. Other beings, that have no extension, but which are forms, are each of them determinate, and consequently imply no other idea of extension. On the contrary, matter, being indeterminate, and incapable of remaining within itself, being moved to receive all forms everywhere, ever being docile, by this very docility, and by the generation (to which it adapts itself), becomes manifold. It is in this way its nature seems to be extension.
POLEMIC AGAINST MODERATUS OF GADES, FORMS DEMAND A RESIDENCE, VASE, OR LOCATION.
12. Extensions therefore contribute to the constitutions of bodies; for the forms of bodies are in extensions. These forms produce themselves not in extension (which is a form), but in the substrate that has received extension. If they occurred in extension, instead of occurring in matter, they would nevertheless have neither extension nor (hypostatic) substance; for they would be no more than reasons. Now as reasons reside in the soul, there would be no body. Therefore, in the sense-world, the multiplicity of forms must have a single substrate which has received extension, and therefore must be other than extension. All things that mingle form a mixture, because they contain matter; they have no need of any other substrate, because each of them brings its matter along with it. But (forms) need a receptacle (a residence), a “vase” (or stand), a location (this in answer to the objection at the beginning of the former section). Now location is posterior to matter and to bodies. Bodies, therefore, presuppose matter. Bodies are not necessarily immaterial, merely because actions and operations are. In the occurrence of an action, matter serves as substrate to the agent; it remains within him without itself entering into action; for that is not that which is sought by the agent. One action does not change into another, and consequently has no need of containing matter; it is the agent who passes from one action to another, and who, consequently, serves as matter to the actions (as thought Aristotle).
NOT EVEN CORPOREITY INHERES IN MATTER WHICH IS REACHED BY BASTARD REASONING.
Matter, therefore, is necessary to quality as well as to quantity, and consequently, to bodies. In this sense, matter is not an empty name, but a substrate, though it be neither visible nor extended. Otherwise, for the same reason, we would be obliged also to deny qualities and extension; for you might say that each of these things, taken in itself, is nothing real. If these things possess existence, though their existence be obscure, so much the more must matter possess existence, though its existence be neither clear nor evident to the senses. Indeed, matter cannot be perceived by sight, since it is colorless; nor by hearing, for it is soundless; nor by smell or taste, because it is neither volatile nor wet. It is not even perceived by touch, for it is not a body. Touch cognizes only body, recognizes that it is dense or sparse, hard or soft, wet or dry; now none of these attributes is characteristic of matter. The latter therefore can be perceived only by a reasoning which does not imply the presence of intelligence, which, on the contrary, implies the complete absence of matter; which (unintelligent reasoning therefore) deserves the name of “bastard” (or, illegitimate) reasoning. Corporeity itself, is not characteristic of matter. If corporeity be a reason (that is, by a pun, a ‘form’), it certainly differs from matter, both being entirely distinct. If corporeity be considered when it has already modified matter and mingled with it, it is a body; it is no longer matter pure and simple.
THE SUBSTRATE IS NOT A QUALITY COMMON TO ALL ELEMENTS; FOR THUS IT WOULD NOT BE INDETERMINATE.
13. Those who insist that the substrate of things is a quality common to all elements are bound to explain first the nature of this quality; then, how a quality could serve as substrate; how an unextended, immaterial (?) quality could be perceived in something that lacked extension; further, how, if this quality be determinate, it can be matter; for if it be something indeterminate, it is no longer a quality, but matter itself that we seek.
EVEN THIS PRIVATION MIGHT BE CONSIDERED A QUALITY; BUT SUCH A USE OF THE TERM WOULD DESTROY ALL COHERENT REASONING.
Let us grant that matter has no quality, because, by virtue of its nature, it does not participate in a quality of any other thing. What, however, would hinder this property, because it is a qualification in matter, from participating in some quality? This would be a particular and distinctive characteristic, which consists of the privation of all other things (referring to Aristotle)? In man, the privation of something may be considered a quality; as, for instance, the privation of sight is blindness. If the privation of certain things inhere in matter, this privation is also a qualification for matter. If further the privation in matter extend to all things, absolutely, our objection is still better grounded, for privation is a qualification. Such an objection, however, amounts to making qualities and qualified things of everything. In this case quantity, as well as “being,” would be a quality. Every qualified thing must possess some quality. It is ridiculous to suppose that something qualified is qualified by what itself has no quality, being other than quality.
BY A PUN BETWEEN “DIFFERENCE” AND “OTHERNESS,” PLOTINUS DEFINES THE CHARACTERISTIC OF MATTER AS BEING A DISPOSITION TO BECOME SOMETHING ELSE.
Some one may object that that is possible, because “being something else” is a quality. We would then have to ask whether the thing that is other be otherness-in-itself? If it be otherness-in-itself, it is so not because it is something qualified, because quality is not something qualified. If this thing be only other, it is not such by itself, it is so only by otherness, as a thing that is identical by identity. Privation, therefore, is not a quality, nor anything qualified, but the absence of quality or of something else, as silence is the absence of sound. Privation is something negative; qualification is something positive. The property of matter is not a form; for its property consists precisely in having neither qualification nor form. It is absurd to insist that it is qualified, just because it has no quality; this would be tantamount to saying that it possessed extension by the very fact of its possessing no extension. The individuality (or, property) of matter is to be what it is. Its characteristic is not an attribute; it consists in a disposition to become other things. Not only are these other things other than matter, but besides each of them possesses an individual form. The only name that suits matter is “other,” or rather, “others,” because the singular is too determinative, and the plural better expresses indetermination.
PRIVATION IS A FORM OF MATTER.
14. Let us now examine if matter be privation, or if privation be an attribute of matter. If you insist that privation and matter are though logically distinct, substantially one and the same thing, you will have to explain the nature of these two things, for instance, defining matter without defining privation, and conversely. Either, neither of these two things implies the other, or they imply each other reciprocally, or only one of them implies the other. If each of them can be defined separately, and if neither of them imply the other, both will form two distinct things, and matter will be different from privation, though privation be an accident of matter. But neither of the two must even potentially be present in the definition of the other. Is their mutual relation the same as that of a stub nose, and the man with the stub nose (as suggested by Aristotle)? Then each of these is double, and there are two things. Is their relation that between fire and heat? Heat is in fire, but fire is not necessarily contained in heat; thus matter, having privation (as a quality), as fire has heat (as a quality), privation will be a form of matter, and has a substrate different from itself, which is matter. Not in this sense, therefore, is there a unity (between them).
PRIVATION IS NONENTITY, AND ADDS NO NEW CONCEPT.
Are matter and privation substantially identical, yet logically distinct, in this sense that privation does not signify the presence of anything, but rather its absence? That it is the negation of beings, and is synonymous with nonentity? Negation adds no attribute; it limits itself to the assertion that something is not. In a certain sense, therefore, privation is nonentity.
BEING SUBSTANTIALLY IDENTICAL, BUT LOGICALLY DISTINCT IS NONSENSE.
If matter be called nonentity in this sense that it is not essence, but something else than essence, there is still room to draw up two definitions, of which one would apply to the substrate, and the other to the privation, merely to explain that it is a disposition to become something else? It would be better to acknowledge that matter, like the substrate, should be defined a disposition to become other things. If the definition of privation shows the indetermination of matter, it can at least indicate its nature. But we could not admit that matter and privation are one thing in respect to their substrate, though logically distinct; for how could there be a logical distinction into two things, if a thing be identical with matter as soon as it is indeterminate, indefinite, and lacking quality?
MATTER AS THE INFINITE IN ITSELF.
15. Let us further examine if the indeterminate, or infinite, be an accident, or an attribute of some other nature; how it comes to be an accident, and whether privation ever can become an accident. The things that are numbers and reasons are exempt from all indetermination, because they are determinations, orders, and principles of order for the rest. Now these principles do not order objects already ordered, nor do they order orders. The thing that receives an order is different from that which gives an order, and the principles from which the order is derived are determination, limitation and reason. In this case, that which receives the order and the determination must necessarily be the infinite (as thought Plato). Now that which receives the order is matter, with all the things which, without being matter, participate therein, and play the part of matter. Therefore matter is the infinite itself. Not accidentally is it the infinite; for the infinite is no accident. Indeed, every accident must be a reason; now of what being can the infinite be an accident? Of determination, or of that which is determined? Now matter is neither of these two. Further, the infinite could not unite with the determinate without destroying its nature. The infinite, therefore, is no accident of matter (but is its nature, or “being”). Matter is the infinite itself. Even in the intelligible world, matter is the infinite.
THE INFINITE MAY BE EITHER IDEAL OR REAL, INFINITE OR INDEFINITE.
The infinite seems born of the infinity of the One, either of its power, or eternity; there is no infinity in the One, but the One is creator of the infinite. How can there be infinity simultaneously above and below (in the One and in matter)? Because there are two infinities (the infinite and the indefinite; the infinite in the One, the indefinite in matter). Between them obtains the same difference as the archetype and its image. Is the infinite here below less infinite? On the contrary, it is more so. By the mere fact that the image is far from veritable “being,” it is more infinite. Infinity is greater in that which is less determinate (as thought Aristotle). Now that which is more distant from good is further in evil. Therefore the infinite on high, possessing the more essence, is the ideal infinite; here below, as the infinite possesses less essence, because it is far from essence and truth, it degenerates into the image of essence, and is the truer (indefinite) infinite.
MATTER AS THE INFINITE IN ITSELF.
Is the infinite identical with the essence of the infinite? There is a distinction between them where there is reason and matter; where however matter is alone, they must be considered identical; or, better, we may say absolutely that here below the infinite does not occur; otherwise it would be a reason, which is contrary to the nature of the infinite. Therefore matter in itself is the infinite, in opposition to reason. Just as reason, considered in itself, is called reason, so matter, which is opposed to reason by its infinity, and which is nothing else (than matter), must be called infinite.
MATTER IS NONESSENTIAL OTHERNESS.
16. Is there any identity between matter and otherness? Matter is not identical with otherness itself, but with that part of otherness which is opposed to real beings, and to reasons. It is in this sense that one can say of nonentity that it is something, that it is identical with privation, if only privation be the opposition to things that exist in reason. Will privation be destroyed by its union with the thing of which it is an attribute? By no means. That in which a (Stoic) “habit” occurs is not itself a “habit,” but a privation. That in which determination occurs is neither determination, nor that which is determined, but the infinite, so far as it is infinite. How could determination unite with the infinite without destroying its nature, since this infinite is not such by accident? It would destroy this infinite, if it were infinite in quantity; but that is not the case. On the contrary, it preserves its “being” for it, realizes and completes its nature; as the earth which did not contain seeds (preserves its nature) when it receives some of them; or the female, when she is made pregnant by the male. The female, then, does not cease being a female; on the contrary she is so far more, for she realizes her nature (“being”).
INDIGENCE IS NECESSARILY EVIL.
Does matter continue to be evil when it happens to participate in the good? Yes, because it was formerly deprived of good, and did not possess it. That which lacks something, and obtains it, holds the middle between good and evil, if it be in the middle between the two. But that which possesses nothing, that which is in indigence, or rather that which is indigence itself, must necessarily be evil; for it is not indigence of wealth, but indigence of wisdom, of virtue, of beauty, of vigor, of shape, of form, of quality. How, indeed, could such a thing not be shapeless, absolutely ugly and evil?
THE RELATION OF BOTH KINDS OF MATTER TO ESSENCE.
In the intelligible world, matter is essence; for what is above it (the One), is considered as superior to essence. In the sense-world, on the contrary, essence is above matter; therefore matter is nonentity, and thereby is the only thing foreign to the beauty of essence.
Ennead 2.5. Of the Aristotelian Distinction Between Actuality and Potentiality.
QUESTIONS TO BE DISCUSSED.
1. (Aristotle) spoke of (things) existing “potentially,” and “actually”; and actuality is spoken of as a “being.” We shall, however, have to examine this potential and actual existence; and whether this actual existence be the same as actuality, and whether this potential existence be identical with potentiality; also, whether these conceptions differ so that what exists actually be not necessarily actuality. It is evident that among sense-objects there exist things potentially. Are there also such among the intelligibles? This then is the problem: whether the intelligibles exist only actually; and on the hypothesis of the existence among intelligibles of something existing potentially, whether, because of its eternity, this always remains there in potentiality; and, because it is outside of time, never arrives to actuality.
DEFINITION OF POTENTIALITY.
Let us first define potentiality. When a thing is said to exist potentially, this means that it does not exist absolutely. Necessarily, what exists potentially is potential only in relation to something else; for example, metal is the statue potentially. Of course, if nothing were to be done with this thing, or within it, if it were not to become something beyond itself, if there were no possibility of its becoming anything else, it would only be what it was already. How could it then become something different from what it was? It did not, therefore, exist potentially. Consequently, if, on considering what is a thing that exists potentially, and one that exists actually, we say that it exists potentially, we must mean that it might become different from what it is, whether, after having produced this different thing, it remain what it is, or whether, on becoming this different thing, which it is potentially, it ceases being what it is itself. Indeed, if metal be a statue potentially, this is a relation different from water being metal potentially, as air is potentially fire.
DISTINCTION BETWEEN EXISTING POTENTIALITY AND POTENTIALITY.
Shall we say that what thus exists potentially is potentiality in respect of what is to be; as, for instance, that the metal is the potentiality of a statue? Not so, if we refer to the producing potentiality; for the producing potentiality cannot be said to exist potentially. If, then, we identified existing potentially not only with existing actually, but also with actuality, then potentiality would coincide with potential existence. It would be better and clearer, therefore, to contrast potential existence with actual existence, and potentiality with actuality. The thing which thus exists potentially is the substance underlying the reactions, shapes and forms which it is naturally fitted to receive, to which it aspires for their betterment or deterioration, and for the destruction of those whose actualization constitutes differentiation.
MATTER IS NOTHING ACTUALLY.
2. As to matter, we shall have to examine whether it be something actually, while simultaneously it potentially is the shapes it receives; or whether it be nothing at all actually. Everything else of which we predicate potentiality passes on to actuality on receiving its form, and remaining the same. We may call a statue an actual statue, thus contrasting with it a potential statue; but an actual statue will not be implied by the metal which we called the potential statue. Consequently, what exists potentially does not become what exists actually; but from what was previously a potential (statue) proceeds what later is an actual (statue). Indeed, what exists actually is the compound, and not the matter; it is the form added to matter; this occurs when there is produced another being; when, for example, from the metal is made a statue; for the statue exists by this very being something other than the metal; namely, the compound.
IN PERMANENT THINGS, POTENTIALITY AND ACTUALITY MAY COINCIDE.
In non-permanent things, what exists potentially is evidently something quite different (from what is said to exist actually). But when the potential grammarian becomes an actual grammarian, why should not the potential and actual coincide? The potential wise Socrates is the same as the actual Socrates. Is the ignorant man, who was potentially learned, the same as the learned? No: only accident makes of the ignorant man a learned one; for it was not his ignorance that made him potentially wise; with him, ignorance was only an accident; but his soul, being by herself disposed (to be actually learned), still remains potentially learned, in so far as she was actually so, and still keeps what is called potential existence; thus the actual grammarian does not cease being a potential grammarian.Nothing hinders these two different things (of being a potential and actual grammarian) from coinciding; in the first case, the man is no more than a potential grammarian; in the latter, the man is still a potential grammarian, but this potentiality has acquired its form (that is, has become actual).
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GENERAL AND PARTICULAR ACTUALITY.
If however what is potential be the substrate, while the actual is both (potential and actual) at the same time, as in the (complete) statue, what then shall we call the form in the metal? We might well call the actuality by which some object exists actually, and not merely potentially, the form and shape; therefore not merely actuality, but the actuality of this individual thing.
THE FORM ADDED TO MATTER IS THE SPECIFIC ACTUALITY.
The name actuality would better suit the (general) actuality rather (than the actuality of some one thing); the actuality corresponding to the potentiality which brings a thing to actuality. Indeed, when that which was potential arrives at actuality, it owes the latter to something else.
WHAT IN THE BODY IS A PASSIVE CAPACITY, IN THE SOUL IS AN ACTIVE FACULTY.
As to the potentiality which by itself produces that of which it is potentiality, that is, which produces the actuality (corresponding to this potentiality), it is a (Stoic) “habituation;” while the actuality (which corresponds to this habituation) owes its name thereto; for instance, the “habituation” is courageousness; while the actuality is being brave.But enough of this!
INTELLIGIBLE MATTER IS NOT POTENTIAL.
3. The purpose of the preceding considerations was to determine the meaning of the statement that intelligibles are actual; to decide whether every intelligible exist only actually, or whether it be only an actuality; and third, how even up there in the intelligible, where all things are actualities, there can also exist something potentially. If, then, in the intelligible world, there be no matter which might be called potential, if no being is to become something which it not yet is, nor transform itself, nor, while remaining what it is, beget something else, nor by altering, cause any substitution, then there could not be anything potential in this World of eternal essence outside of time. Let us now address the following question to those who admit the existence of matter, even in intelligible things: “How can we speak of matter in the intelligible world, if by virtue of this matter nothing exists potentially? For even if in the intelligible world matter existed otherwise than it does in the sense-world, still in every being would be the matter, the form and the compound which constitutes it.” They would answer that in intelligible things, what plays the part of matter is a form, and that the soul, by herself, is form; but, in relation to something else, is matter. Is the soul then potential in respect of this other thing? Hardly, for the soul possesses the form, and possesses it at present, without regard to the future, and she is divisible in form and matter only for reason; if she contain matter, it is only because thought conceives of her as double (by distinguishing form and matter in her). But these two things form a single nature, as Aristotle also says that his “quintessence” is immaterial.
THE SOUL IS THE PRODUCING POTENTIALITY; NOT THE POTENTIALITY OF BECOMING.
What shall we say? Potentially, she is the animal, when it is unborn, though to be born. Potentially she is the music, and all the things that become, because they are transient. Thus in the intelligible world there are things which exist, or do not exist potentially. But the soul is the potentiality of these things.
IN THE INTELLIGIBLE WORLD EVERYTHING IS ACTUAL.
How might one apply actual existence to intelligible things? Each of them exists actually because it has received form, as the statue (the compound) exists actually, or rather, because it is a form, and because its essence is a perfect form. The intelligence does not pass from the potentiality of thinking to the actuality of thinking.Otherwise, it would imply an anterior intelligence which would not pass from potentiality to actuality, which would possess everything by itself; for what exists potentially implies another principle whose intervention brings it to actuality, so as to be something existing actually. A being is an actuality when it always is what it is, by itself. Therefore, all first principles are actualities; for they possess all they should possess by themselves, eternally. Such is the state of the soul which is not in matter, but in the intelligible world. The soul which is in matter is another actuality; she is, for instance, the vegetative soul; for she is in actuality what she is. We shall, therefore, have to admit that (in the intelligible world) everything exists actually, and that thus everything is actuality, because it has rightly been said that intelligible nature is always awake, that it is a life, an excellent life, and that there on high all actualities are perfect. Therefore, in the intelligible world, everything exists actually, and everything is actuality and life. The place of intelligible things is the place of life, the principle and source of the veritable soul, and of intelligence.
MATTER IS NON-BEING, AND CAN NOT BE ANYTHING ACTUAL.
4. All the other objects (the sense-objects), which are something potentially, are also actually something else, which, in regard to the First, may be said to be potential existence. As to matter, which exists potentially in all beings, how could it actually be some of these beings? Evidently, it would then no longer be all beings potentially. If matter be none of the beings, it necessarily is not a being. If it be none of the beings, how could it actually be something? Consequently, matter is none of the beings that in it “become.” But might it not be something else, since all things are not in matter? If matter be none of the beings which are therein, and if these really are beings, matter must be non-being. Since, by imagination, it is conceived as something formless, it could not be a form; as being, it could not be counted among the forms; which is an additional reason why it should be considered as non-being. As matter, therefore, is no “being” neither in respect of beings, nor of forms, matter is non-being in the highest degree. Since matter does not possess the nature of veritable beings, and since it cannot even claim a place among the objects falsely called beings (for not even like these is matter an image of reason), in what kind of being could matter be included? If it cannot be included in any, it can evidently not be something actually.
ARISTOTLE SAID, MATTER IS NOTHING REAL ACTUALLY, BUT ONLY POTENTIALLY.
5. If this be so, what opinion shall we form of matter? How can it be the matter of beings? Because matter potentially constitutes the beings. But, since matter already exists potentially, may we not already say that it exists, when we consider what it is to be? The being of matter is only what is to be; it consists of what is going to be; therefore matter exists potentially; but it is potentially not any determinate thing, but all things. Therefore, being nothing by itself, and being what it is, namely, matter, it is nothing actually. If it were something actually, what it would actually be would not be matter; consequently, matter would no longer be absolutely matter; it would be matter only relatively, like metal. Matter is, therefore, non-being; it is not something which merely differs from being, like movement, which relates to matter because it proceeds from matter, and operates in it. Matter is denuded and despoiled of all properties; it can not transform itself, it remains ever what it was at the beginning, non-being. From the very being it actually was no being, since it had withdrawn from all beings, and had never even become any of them; for never was it able to keep a reflection of the beings whose forms it ever aspired to assume. Its permanent condition is to trend towards something else, to exist potentially in respect of the things that are to follow. As it appears where ends the order of intelligible beings, and as it is contained by the sense-beings which are begotten after it, it is their last degree. Being contained in both intelligible and sense-things, it does not actually exist in respect of either of these classes of beings. It exists only potentially; it limits itself to being a feeble and obscure image, which can not assume any form. May we not thence conclude that matter is the image actually; and consequently, is actually deception? Yes, it truly is deception, that is, it is essentially non-being. If then matter actually be non-being, it is the highest degree of non-being, and thus again essentially is non-being. Since non-being is its real nature, it is, therefore, far removed from actually being any kind of a being. If it must at all be, it must actually be non-being, so that, far from real-being, its “being” (so to speak) consists in non-being. To remove the deception of deceptive beings, is to remove their “being.” To introduce actuality in the things which possess being and essence potentially, is to annihilate their reason for being, because their being consists in existing potentially.
ETERNAL MATTER EXISTS ONLY POTENTIALLY.
Therefore, if matter were to be retained as unchangeable, it would be first necessary to retain it as matter; evidently, it will be necessary to insist that it exists only potentially, so that it may remain what it essentially is; the only alternative would be to refute the arguments we have advanced.
Ennead 2.6. Of Essence and Being.
DISTINCTION BETWEEN ESSENCE AND BEING.
1. Is “essence” something different from “being”? Does essence indicate an abstraction of the other (four categories), and is being, on the contrary, essence with the other (four categories), motion and rest, identity and difference? Are these the elements of being? Yes: “being” is the totality of these things, of which one is essence, the other is motion, and so forth. Motion, therefore, is accidental essence. Is it also accidental “being?” Or is it being completely? Motion is being, because all intelligible things are beings. But why is not each of the sense-things a being? The reason is, that on high all things form only a single group of totality, while here below they are distinct one from another because they are images that have been distinguished. Likewise, in a seminal (reason), all things are together, and each of them is all the others; the hand is not distinct from the head; while, on the contrary, in a body all the organs are separate, because they are images instead of being genuine beings.
DISTINCTION BETWEEN COMPLEMENTS OF BEING, AND QUALITIES.
We may now say that, in the intelligible world, qualities are the characteristic differences in being or essence. These differences effect distinction between the beings; in short, they cause them to be beings. This definition seems reasonable. But it does not suit the qualities below (in the sense-world); some are differences of being, as biped, or quadruped (as thought Aristotle); others are not differences, and on that very account are called qualities. Still, the same thing may appear a difference when it is a complement of the being, and again it may not seem a difference when it is not a complement of the being, but an accident: as, for instance, whiteness is a complement of being in a swan, or in white lead; but in a human being like you, it is only an accident (as thought Aristotle). So long as the whiteness is in the (“seminal) reason,” it is a complement of being, and not a quality; if it be on the surface of a being, it is a quality.
DISTINCTION BETWEEN ESSENTIAL AND MODAL QUALITIES.
Two kinds of qualities must be distinguished; the essential quality, which is a peculiarity of its being, and the mere quality, which affects the being’s classification. The mere quality introduces no change in the essence, and causes none of its characteristics to disappear; but, when the being exists already, and is complete, this quality gives it a certain exterior disposition; and, whether in the case of a soul or body, adds something to it. Thus visible whiteness, which is of the very being of white lead, is not of the being of the swan, because a swan may be of some color other than white. Whiteness then completes the being of white lead, just as heat completes the being of fire. If igneousness is said to be the being of fire, whiteness is also the being of white lead. Nevertheless, the igneousness of the visible fire is heat, which constitutes the complement of its being; and whiteness plays the same part with respect to white lead. Therefore (differing according to the difference of various beings) the same things will be complements of being, and will not be qualities, or they will not be complements of being, and will be qualities; but it would not be reasonable to assert that these qualities are different according to whether or not they are complements of being, since their nature is the same.
DISTINCTION BETWEEN WHATNESS AND AFFECTIONS OF BEING.
We must acknowledge that the reasons which produce these things (as heat, and whiteness) are beings, if taken in their totality; but on considering their production, we see that what constitutes a whatness or quiddity (the Aristotelian “what it were to be”) in the intelligible world, becomes a quality in the sense-world. Consequently, we always err on the subject of the quiddity, when we try to determine it, mistaking the simple quality for it (as thought Plato), for, when we perceive a quality, the fire is not what we call fire, but a being. As to the things which arrest our gaze, we should distinguish them from the quiddity, and define them by the qualities of sense (objects); for they do not constitute the being, but the affections of being.
ACTUALIZED BEING LESS PERFECT THAN ESSENCE.
We are thus led to ask how a being can be composed of non-beings? It has already been pointed out that the things subject to generation could not be identical with the principles from which they proceed. Let us now add that they could not be beings. But still, how can one say that the intelligible being is constituted by a non-being? The reason is that in the intelligible world since being forms a purer and more refined essence, being really is somehow constituted by the differences of essence; or rather, we feel it ought to be called being from considering it together with its energies (or, actualizations). This being seems to be a perfecting of essence; but perhaps being is less perfect when it is thus considered together with its actualizations; for, being less simple, it veers away from essence.
SUCHNESS IS LATER THAN BEING AND QUIDDITY.
2. Let us now consider what quality in general is; for when we shall know this, our doubts will cease. First, must it be admitted that one and the same thing is now a quality, and then a complement of being? Can one say that quality is the complement of being, or rather of such a being? The suchness of being implies a previously existing being and quiddity.
BEING CANNOT PRECEDE SUCH BEING.
Taking the illustration of fire, is it “mere being” before it is “such being?” In this case, it would be a body. Consequently, the body will be a being; fire will be a hot body. Body and heat combined will not constitute being; but heat will exist in the body as in you exists the property of having a stub nose (as said Aristotle). Consequently, if we abstract heat, shine and lightness, which seem to be qualities, and also impenetrability, nothing will remain but tridimensional extension, and matter will be “being.” But this hypothesis does not seem likely; it is rather form which will be “being.”
FORM IS NOT A QUALITY; BUT A REASON.
Is form a quality? No: form is a reason. Now what is constituted by (material) substance, and reason? (In the warm body) it is neither what burns, nor what is visible; it is quality. If, however, it be said that combustion is an act emanating from reason, that being hot and white are actualities, we could not find anything to explain quality.
QUALITIES ARE ACTS OF BEING, PROCEEDING FROM REASONS AND ESSENTIAL POTENTIALITIES.
What we call a complement of being should not be termed a quality, because they are actualizations of being, actualizations which proceed from the reasons and the essential potentialities. Qualities are therefore something outside of being; something which does not at times seem to be, and at other times does not seem not to be qualities; something which adds to being something that is not necessary; for example, virtues and vices, ugliness and beauty, health, and individual resemblance. Though triangle, and tetragon, each considered by itself, are not qualities; yet being “transformed into triangular appearance” is a quality; it is not therefore triangularity, but triangular formation, which is a quality. The same could be said of the arts and professions. Consequently, quality is a disposition, either adventitious or original, in already existing beings. Without it, however, being would exist just as much. It might be said that quality is either mutable or immutable; for it forms two kinds, according to whether it be permanent or changeable.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN INTELLIGIBLE AND SENSE-QUALITY.
3. The whiteness that I see in you is not a quality, but an actualization of the potentiality of whitening. In the intelligible world all the things that we call qualities are actualizations. They are called qualities because they are properties, because they differentiate the beings from each other, because in respect to themselves they bear a particular character. But since quality in the sense-world is also an actualization, in what does it differ from the intelligible quality? The sense-quality does not show the essential quality of every being, nor the difference or character of substances, but simply the thing that we properly call quality, and which is an actualization in the intelligible world. When the property of something is to be a being, this thing is not a quality. But when reason separates beings from their properties, when it removes nothing from them, when it limits itself to conceiving and begetting different from these beings, it begets quality, which it conceives of as the superficial part of being. In this case, nothing hinders the heat of the fire, so far as it is natural to it, from constituting a form, an actualization, and not a quality of the fire; it is a quality when it exists in a substance where it no longer constitutes the form of being, but only a trace, an adumbration, an image of being, because it finds itself separated from the being whose actualization it is.
QUALITIES ARE ACCIDENTAL SHAPES OF BEING.
Qualities, therefore, are everything that, instead of being actualizations and forms of beings, are only its accidents, and only reveal its shapes. We will therefore call qualities the habituations and the dispositions which are not essential to substances. The archetypes (or models) of qualities are the actualizations of the beings, which are the principles of these qualities. It is impossible for the same thing at one time to be, and at another not to be a quality. What can be separated from being is quality; what remains united to being is being, form, and actualization. In fact, nothing can be the same in itself, and in some other condition where it has ceased to be form and an actualization. What, instead of being the form of a being, is always its accident, is purely and exclusively a quality.
Ennead 2.7. About Mixture to the Point of Total Penetration.
REFUTATION OF ANAXAGORAS AND DEMOCRITUS.
1. The subject of the present consideration is mixture to the point of total penetration of the different bodies. This has been explained in two ways: that the two liquids are mingled so as mutually to interpenetrate each other totally, or that only one of them penetrates the other. The difference between these two theories is of small importance. First we must set aside the opinion of (Anaxagoras and Democritus), who explain mixture as a juxtaposition, because this is a crude combination, rather than a mixture. Mixture should render the whole homogeneous, so that even the smallest molecules might each be composed of the various elements of the mixture.
REFUTATION OF ARISTOTLE AND ALEXANDER OF APHRODISIAS.
As to the (Peripatetic) philosophers who assert that in a mixture only the qualities mingle, while the material extension of both bodies are only in juxtaposition, so long as the qualities proper to each of them are spread throughout the whole mass, they seem to establish the rightness of their opinion by attacking the doctrine which asserts that the two bodies mutually interpenetrate in mixture. (They object) that the molecules of both bodies will finally lose all magnitude by this continuous division which will leave no interval between the parts of either of the two bodies; for if the two bodies mutually interpenetrate each other in every part, their division must become continuous. Besides, the mixture often occupies an extent greater than each body taken separately, and as great as if mere juxtaposition had occurred. Now if two bodies mutually interpenetrate totally, the resulting mixture would occupy no more place than any one of them taken separately. The case where two bodies occupy no more space than a single one of them is by these philosophers explained by the air’s expulsion, which permits one of the bodies to penetrate into the pores of the other. Besides, in the case of the mixture of two bodies of unequal extent, how could the body of the smaller extend itself sufficiently to spread into all the parts of the greater? There are many other such reasons.
REFUTATION OF THE STOICS.
We now pass to the opinions of (Zeno and the other Stoic) philosophers, who assert that two bodies which make up a mixture mutually interpenetrate each other totally. They support this view by observing that when the bodies interpenetrate totally, they are divided without the occurrence of a continuous division (which would make their molecules lose their magnitude). Indeed, perspiration issues from the human body without its being divided or riddled with holes. To this it may be objected that nature may have endowed our body with a disposition to permit perspiration to issue easily. To this (the Stoics) answer that certain substances (like ivory), which when worked into thin sheets, admit, in all their parts, a liquid (oat-gruel) which passes from one surface to the other. As these substances are bodies, it is not easy to understand how one element can penetrate into another without separating its molecules. On the other hand, total division must imply mutual destruction (because their molecules would lose all magnitude whatever). When, however, two mingled bodies do not together occupy more space than either of them separately (the Stoics) seem forced to admit to their adversaries that this phenomenon is caused by the displacement of air.
EXPLANATION OF MIXTURE THAT OCCUPIES MORE SPACE THAN ITS ELEMENTS.
In the case where the compound occupies more space than each element separately, it might (though with little probability), be asserted, that, since every body, along with its other qualities, implies size, a local extension must take place. No more than the other qualities could this increase perish. Since, out of both qualities, arises a new form, as a compound of the mixture of both qualities; so also must another size arise, the mixture combining the size out of both. Here (the Peripatetics) might answer (the Stoics): “If you assert a juxtaposition of substances, as well as of the masses which possess extension, you are actually adopting our opinions. If however one of the masses, with its former extension, penetrate the entire mass of the other, the extension, instead of increasing, as in the case where one line is added to another by joining their extremities, will not increase any more than when two straight lines are made to coincide by superimposing one on the other.”
CASE OF MIXTURE OF UNEQUAL QUANTITIES.
The case of the mixture of a smaller quantity with a greater one, such as of a large body with a very small one, leads (the Peripatetics) to consider it impossible that the great body should spread in all the parts of the small one. Where the mixture is not evident, the (Peripatetics) might claim that the smaller body does not unite with all the parts of the greater. When however the mixture is evident, they can explain it by the extension of the masses, although it be very doubtful that a small mass would assume so great an extension, especially when we attribute to the composite body a greater extent, without nevertheless admitting its transformation, as when water transforms itself into air.
EVAPORATION MAY LEAD TO A THIRD THEORY OF MIXTURE.
2. What happens when a mass of water transforms itself into air? This question demands particular treatment; for how can the transformed element occupy a greater extension? (We shall not try to explain it on either the Peripatetic or Stoic principles) because we have sufficiently developed above the numerous reasons advanced by both those schools. We had better now consider which of the two systems we ourselves might adopt, and on which side lies reason. Besides, we should consider whether, besides these both, there be not place for a third opinion.
REFUTATION OF STOIC EXPLANATION OF EVAPORATION.
When water flows through wool, or when paper allows water to filter through it, why does not the whole of the water pass through these substances (without partly remaining within them)? If the water remain therein partially, we shall not be able to unite the two substances or masses. Shall we say that the qualities alone are confused (or, mingled)? Water is not in juxtaposition with the paper, nor is lodged in its pores; for the whole paper is penetrated thereby, and no portion of the matter lacks that quality. If matter be united to quality everywhere, water must everywhere be present in the paper. If it be not water that everywhere is present in the paper, but only (humidity which is) the quality of the water, where then is the water itself? Why is not the mass the same? The matter that has insinuated itself into the paper extends it, and increases its volume. Now this augmentation of volume implies augmentation of mass; and the latter implies that the water has not been absorbed by the book, and that the two substances occupy different places (and do not interpenetrate each other). Since one body causes another to participate in its quality, why would it not also make it participate in its extension? By virtue of this union with a different quality, one quality, united with a different one, cannot, either remain pure, or preserve its earlier nature; it necessarily becomes weaker. But one extension, added to another extension, does not vanish.
REFUTATION OF PERIPATETIC EXPLANATION OF EVAPORATION.
One body is said to divide another, by penetrating it. This assertion, however, demands demonstration, for it is more reasonable to suppose that qualities may penetrate a body without dividing it. Such demonstration is attempted by the claim that qualities are incorporeal. But if matter itself be as incorporeal as the qualities, why could not some qualities along with the matter penetrate into some other body? That some solids do not penetrate other bodies, is due to their possession of qualities incompatible with that of penetration. The objection that many qualities could not, along with matter, penetrate some body, would be justified only if it were the multitude of qualities that produced density; but if density be as much of a quality as corporeity, the qualities will constitute the mixture not in themselves alone, but only as they happen to be determined. On the other hand, when matter does not lend itself to mixture, this occurs not by virtue of its being matter, but as matter united to some determinative quality. That is all the truer as matter is receptive to any magnitude, not having any of its own. But enough of this.
THE BODY IS RATIONALIZED MATTER.
3. Since we have spoken of corporeity, it must be analyzed. Is it a composite of all qualities, or does it constitute a form, a “reason,” which produces the body by presence in matter? If the body be the composite of all the qualities together with matter, this totality of qualities will constitute corporeity. But if corporeity be a reason which produces the body by approaching matter, doubtless it is a reason which contains all the qualities. Now, if this reason be not at all a definition of being, if it be a reason productive of the object, it will not contain any matter. It is the reason which applies itself to matter, and which, by its presence, produces the body there. Body is matter with indwelling “reason.” This “reason,” being a form, may be considered separately from matter, even if it were entirely inseparable therefrom. Indeed, “reason” separated (from matter), and residing in intelligence, is different (from “reason” united to matter); the “Reason” which abides within Intelligence is Intelligence itself. But this subject (I shall) refer to elsewhere.
Ennead 2.8. Of Sight; or of Why Distant Objects Seem Small. (Of Perspective.)
VARIOUS THEORIES OF PERSPECTIVE.
1. What is the cause that when distant visible objects seem smaller, and that, though separated by a great space, they seem to be close to each other, while if close, we see them in their true size, and their true distance? The cause of objects seeming smaller at a distance might be that light needs to be focused near the eye, and to be accommodated to the size of the pupils; that the greater the distance of the matter of the visible object, the more does its form seem to separate from it during its transit to the eyes; and that, as there is a form of quantity as well as of quality, it is the reason (or, form) of the latter which alone reaches the eye. On the other hand, (Epicurus) thinks that we feel magnitude only by the passage and the successive introduction of its parts, one by one; and that, consequently, magnitude must be brought within our reach, and near us, for us to determine its quantity.
QUALITY IS MORE ESSENTIAL THAN QUANTITY.
(Do objects at a distance seem smaller) because we perceive magnitude only by accident, and because color is perceived first? In this case, when an object is near, we perceive its colored magnitude; when at a distance, we perceive first its color, not well enough distinguishing its parts to gather exact knowledge of its quantity, because its colors are less lively. Why should we be surprised at magnitudes being similar to sounds, which grow weaker as their form decreases in distinctness? As to sounds, indeed, it is the form that is sought by the sense of hearing, and here intensity is noticed only as an accident. But if hearing perceive magnitude only by accident, to what faculty shall we attribute the primitive perception of intensity in sound, just as primitive perception of magnitude in the visible object is referable to the sense of touch? Hearing perceives apparent magnitude by determining not the quantity but the intensity of sounds; this very intensity of sounds, however, is perceived only by accident (because it is its proper object). Likewise, taste does not by accident feel the intensity of a sweet savor. Speaking strictly, the magnitude of a sound is its extent. Now the intensity of a sound indicates its extent only by accident, and therefore in an inexact manner. Indeed a thing’s intensity is identical with the thing itself. The multitude of a thing’s parts is known only by the extent of space occupied by the object.
DIFFERENCES OF COLOR AID IN THE PERCEPTION OF MAGNITUDE.
It may be objected that a color cannot be less large, and that it can only be less vivid. However, there is a common characteristic in something smaller and less vivid; namely, that it is less than what it is its being to be. As to color, diminution implies weakness; as to size, smallness. Magnitude connected with color diminishes proportionally with it. This is evident in the perception of a varied object, as, for instance, in the perception of mountains covered with houses, forests, and many other objects; here the distinctness of detail affords a standard by which to judge of the whole. But when the view of the details does not impress itself on the eye, the latter no longer grasps the extent of the whole through measurement of the extent offered to its contemplation by the details. Even in the case where the objects are near and varied, if we include them all in one glance without distinguishing all their parts, the more parts our glance loses, the smaller do the objects seem. On the contrary, if we distinguish all their details, the more exactly do we measure them, and learn their real size. Magnitudes of uniform color deceive the eye because the latter can no longer measure their extent by its parts; and because, even if the eye attempt to do so, it loses itself, not knowing where to stop, for lack of difference between the parts.
DISAPPEARANCE OF THE FORM IMPLIES THAT OF THE SIZE.
The distant object seems to us close because our inability to distinguish the parts of the intervening space does not permit us to determine exactly its magnitude. When sight can no longer traverse the length of an interval by determining its quality, in respect to its form, neither can it any longer determine its quantity in respect to magnitude.
REFUTATION OF ARISTOTLE’S “VISUAL ANGLE” THEORY.
2. Some hold that distant objects seem to us lesser only because they are seen under a smaller visual angle. Elsewhere we have shown that this is wrong; and here we shall limit ourselves to the following considerations. The assertion that a distant object seems less because it is perceived under a smaller visual angle supposes that the rest of the eye still sees something outside of this object, whether this be some other object, or something external, such as the air. But if we suppose that the eye sees nothing outside of this object, whether this object, as would a great mountain, occupy the whole extent of the glance, and permit nothing beyond it to be seen; or whether it even extend beyond the sweep of the glance on both sides, then this object should not, as it actually does, seem smaller than it really is, even though it fill the whole extension of the glance. The truth of this observation can be verified by a mere glance at the sky. Not in a single glance can the whole hemisphere be perceived, for the glance could not be extended widely enough to embrace so vast an expanse. Even if we grant the possibility of this, and that the whole glance embraces the whole hemisphere; still the real magnitude of the heaven is greater than its apparent magnitude. How then by the diminution of the visual angle could we explain the smallness of the apparent magnitude of the sky, on the hypothesis that it is the diminution of the visual angle which makes distant objects appear smaller?
Ennead 2.9. Against the Gnostics; or, That the Creator and the World are Not Evil.
THE SUPREME PRINCIPLES MUST BE SIMPLE AND NOT COMPOUND.
1. We have already seen that the nature of the Good is simple and primary, for nothing that is not primary could be simple. We have also demonstrated that the nature of the Good contains nothing in itself, but is something unitary, the very nature of the One; for in itself the One is not some thing to which unity could be added, any more than the Good in itself is some thing to which goodness could be added. Consequently, as both the One and the Good are simplicity itself, when we speak of the One and the Good, these two words express but one and the same nature; they affirm nothing, and only represent it to us so far as possible. This nature is called the First, because it is very simple, and not composite; it is the absolute as self-sufficient, because it is not composite; otherwise it would depend on the things of which it was composed. Neither is it predicable of anything (as an attribute in a subject) for all that is in another thing comes from something else. If then this nature be not in anything else, nor is derived from anything else, if it contain nothing composite, it must not have anything above it.
THE ONLY SUPREME PRINCIPLES MUST THEN BE UNITY, INTELLIGENCE AND SOUL.
Consequently there are no principles other (than the three divine hypostatic substances); and the first rank will have to be assigned to Unity, the second to Intelligence, as the first thinking principle, and the third to the Soul. Such indeed is the natural order, which admits of no further principles, in the intelligible world. If less be claimed, it is because of a confusion between the Soul and Intelligence, or Intelligence with the First; but we have often pointed out their mutual differences. The only thing left is to examine if there might not be more than these three hypostatic substances; and in this case, what their nature might be.
THE ARISTOTELIAN DISTINCTION OF POTENTIALITY AND ACTUALITY IS NOT APPLICABLE TO DIVINITY.
The Principle of all things, such as we have described it, is the most simple and elevated possible. The (Gnostics) are wrong in distinguishing within that (supreme Principle) potentiality from actualization; for it would be ridiculous to seek to apply to principles that are immaterial and are actualizations, that (Aristotelian) distinction, and thus to increase the number (of the divine hypostatic substances.)
THE DISTINCTION OF REST AND MOVEMENT ALSO INAPPLICABLE.
Neither could we, below the Supreme, distinguish two intelligences, one at rest, and the other in motion. We should have to define the resting of the First, and the movement or utterance of the second. The inaction of the one and the action of the other would be equally mysterious. By its being (or, nature), Intelligence is eternally and identically a permanent actualization. To rise to Intelligence and to move around it is the proper function of the soul.
AN INTERMEDIARY LOGOS (OR ÆON JESUS), ALSO UNACCOUNTABLE.
Reason (logos) which descends from Intelligence into the Soul, and intellectualizes her, does not constitute a nature distinct from the Soul and Intelligence, and intermediary between them.
CONSCIOUSNESS IS UNITARY THOUGH CONTAINING THINKER, OBJECT AND THOUGHT.
Nor should we admit the existence of several intelligences, merely because we distinguish a thinker from a consciousness of the thinker. Though there be a difference between thinking, and thinking that one thinks, these two nevertheless constitute a single intuitive consciousness of its actualizations. It would be ridiculous to deny such a consciousness to veritable Intelligence. It is therefore the same Intelligence that thinks, and that thinks that it thinks. Otherwise there would be two principles, of which the one would have thought, and the other consciousness of thought. The second would doubtless differ from the first, but would not be the real thinking principle. A mere logical distinction between thought and consciousness of thought would not establish the (actual) differences between two (hypostatic substances). Further, we shall have to consider whether it be possible to conceive of an Intelligence which would exclusively think, without any accompanying consciousness of its thought. If we ourselves who are entirely devoted to practical activity and discursive reason were in such a condition, we would, even if otherwise considered sensible, be insane. But as true Intelligence thinks itself in its thoughts, and as the intelligible, far from being outside of Intelligence, is Intelligence itself, Intelligence, by thinking, possesses itself, and necessarily sees itself. When Intelligence sees itself, it does not see itself as unintelligent, but as intelligent. Therefore in the first actualization of thought, Intelligence has the thought and consciousness of thought, two things that form but a single one; not even logically is this a duality. If Intelligence always thinks what it is, is there any reason to separate, even by a simple logical distinction, thought from the consciousness of thought? The absurdity of the doctrine we are controverting will be still more evident if we suppose that a third intelligence is conscious that the second intelligence is conscious of the thought of the first; we might thus go on to infinity.
A DIFFERENTIATED REASON WOULD DEPRIVE THE SOUL OF CONSCIOUSNESS.
Last, if we suppose that Reason is derived from Intelligence, and then from reason in the soul derive another reason which would be derived from Reason in itself, so as to constitute a principle intermediary between Intelligence and Soul, the Soul would be deprived of the power of thought. For thus the Soul, instead of receiving reason from Intelligence, would receive reason from an intermediary principle. Instead of possessing Reason itself, the Soul would possess only an adumbration of Reason; the Soul would not know Intelligence, and would not be able to think.
NO MORE THAN THREE PRINCIPLES ADMITTED BECAUSE OF THE UNITY OF CONSCIOUSNESS.
2. In the intelligible world, therefore, we shall not recognize more than three principles (Unity, Intelligence, and Soul), without those superfluous and incongruous fictions. We shall insist that there is a single Intelligence that is identical, and immutable, which imitates its Father so far as it can. Then there is our soul, of which one part ever remains among the intelligibles, while one part descends to sense-objects, and another abides in an intermediary region. As our soul is one nature in several powers, she may at times entirely rise to the intelligible world, with the best part of herself and of essence; at other times the soul’s lower part allows itself to be dragged down to the earth, carrying with it the intermediate portion; for the soul cannot be entirely dragged down. This being dragged down occurs only because the soul does not abide in the better region. While dwelling in it, the Soul, which is not a part (of it) and of which we are not a part, has given to the body of the universe all the perfections of which she was capable. The Soul governs it by remaining quiet, without reasoning, without having to correct anything. With wonderful power she beautifies the universe by the contemplation of the intelligible world. The more the Soul attaches herself to contemplation, the more powerful and beautiful she is; what she receives from above, she communicates to the sense-world, and illuminates because she herself is always illuminated (by Intelligence).
THE WORLD AS ETERNALLY BEGOTTEN—GOD’S NEED TO GIVE.
3. Thus the Soul, ever being illuminated, in turn herself illuminates lower things that subsist only through her, like plants that feed on dew, and which participate in life, each according to its capacity. Likewise a fire heats the objects that surround it, each in proportion to its nature. Now if such is the effect of fire whose power is limited, while intelligible beings exert unlimited powers, how would it be possible for these beings to exist without causing anything to participate in their nature? Each of them must therefore communicate some degree of its perfection to other beings. The Good would no longer be the good, Intelligence would no longer be intelligence, the Soul would no longer be soul, if, beneath that which possesses the first degree of life, there was not some other thing which possessed the second degree of life, and which subsisted only so long as subsists He who occupies the first rank. It is therefore unavoidable that all things (inferior to the First) must always exist in mutual dependence, and that they be begotten, because they derive their existence from some other source. They were not begotten at a definite moment. When we affirm that they are begotten, we should say, they were begotten, or, they shall be begotten. Nor will they be destroyed, unless they are composed of elements in which they could be dissolved. Those that are indissoluble will not perish. It may be objected that they could be resolved into matter. But why should matter also not be liable to be destroyed? If it were granted that matter was liable to destruction, there was no necessity for its existence. It may be further objected that the existence of matter necessarily results from the existence of other principles. In this case, this necessity still subsists. If matter is to be considered as isolated (from the intelligible world), then the divine principles also, instead of being present everywhere, will, as it were, be walled up in a limited place. But if the latter be impossible, then must matter be illuminated (by the intelligible world).
BY A PUN ON INCLINATION, PLOTINUS SHOWS THAT THE WORLD-SOUL COULD NOT HAVE GONE THROUGH THE DRAMA OF CREATION ATTRIBUTED TO SOPHIA AND ACHAMOTH.
4. But in that case, the Soul created only because she had lost her wings. The universal Soul, however, could not have been subject to such an accident. Those (Gnostics) who claim that she committed a fault should explain the nature of that fault. Why did this fall occur? If she fell from all eternity, she must similarly remain in her fault; if only at a determinate time, why not earlier? We however believe that the Soul created the world not by inclining (towards matter), but rather because she did not incline towards it. Thus to incline towards matter the Soul would have forgotten the intelligible entities; but if she had forgotten them, she could not have created the world (using them as models). From what (models) would the soul have created the world? She must have formed it according to the intelligible models she had contemplated above. If she remembered them while creating, she had not inclined (away from them towards matter). Neither did the Soul have an obscure notion of the intelligibles; otherwise she would have inclined herself towards them, to get a clear intuition of them. For if she kept some memory of the intelligible world, why would she not have wished to reascend therein?
MOST GENERALLY ASSIGNED MOTIVES OF CREATION ARE RIDICULOUS, OR WORSE.
Besides, what advantage could the (world-Soul) have imagined she was gaining by creating the world? That she did so in order to be honored seems unworthy, for it would be attributing to her the desires of a sculptor. Another theory is that the (world-Soul) created the world by virtue of a rational conception, and she thus exercised her power, though creating did not inhere in her nature. If so, how did she make the world? When will she destroy it? If she repented, what is she waiting for (before she destroys her handiwork)? If, however, she has not yet repented, she could not repent after time will have accustomed her to her work, and will have made her more kindly disposed thereto. If however she be awaiting individual souls, the latter should not have returned into generation, since, in the former generation, they have already experienced evils here below, and consequently, they should long since have ceased to descend upon this earth.
THE WORLD SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED EVIL BECAUSE OF OUR SUFFERINGS; NOTHING MORE BEAUTIFUL COULD BE IMAGINED.
Nor should the world be considered badly made, merely because we suffer so much therein. This idea results from entertaining unjustifiable expectations of its perfections, and from confusing it with the intelligible world of which it is an image. Could a more beautiful image, indeed, be imagined? After the celestial fire could we imagine a better fire than our own? After the intelligible earth, could we imagine a better earth than ours? After the actualization by which the intelligible world embraces itself, could we imagine a sphere more perfect, more wonderful, or better ordered in its movements? After the intelligible sun, how could we imagine any sun different from the one that we see?
IT IS CONTRADICTORY TO CONSIDER ONESELF CAPABLE OF PERFECTION, BUT TO DENY IMPASSIBILITY TO THE BEAUTIFUL WORKS OF NATURE.
5. Is it not absurd to see those (Gnostics) who, like everybody else, possess a body, passions, fears, and excitements, holding an idea of their own powers high enough to make them believe themselves capable of attaining the intelligible, while to the sun, though it be immutable and perfect, and though it be impassible power, refusing a wisdom superior to ours, we who were born only yesterday, and who find so many obstacles in our search after truth? We certainly are surprised to see these (Gnostics) considering the souls of both themselves and of the vilest men immortal and divine, while refusing immortality to the entire heaven, to all the stars it contains, though they be composed of elements more beautiful and purer (than we), though they manifest a marvellous beauty and order, while (these Gnostics) themselves acknowledge that disorder is observed here below? According to their theories, however, the immortal Soul would have picked out the worst part of the world, while giving up the best to mortal souls.
AN INTERMEDIARY ELEMENTAL SOUL IS ALSO INADMISSIBLE.
It is also absurd to see them introduce into the world, after the universal Soul, another soul said to be composed of elements. How could a composition of elements possess life? A mixture of elements does not produce heat or cold, humidity or dryness, or any combination thereof. Besides, how could this soul (that is inferior to the universal Soul), hold in union together the four elements, if she herself were composed of them, and therefore were posterior to them? We may also rightfully demand of the (Gnostics) an explanation of their predicating perception, reflection, and other faculties to this (mythical) soul.
THE GNOSTICS’ NEW EARTH, THAT IS MODEL OF THE OLD IS UNREASONABLE.
Besides, as the (Gnostics) have no appreciation of the work of the demiurgic creator, nor for this earth, they insist that the divinity has created for them a new earth, which is destined to receive them when they shall have left here below, and which is the reason of the world. But what need do they have of inhabiting the model of this world that they pretend to hate? In any case, from where does this model come? According to them, the model was created only when its author inclined towards things here below. But what was the use of the model, if its creator busied himself considerably with the world to make a world inferior to the intelligible world which he possessed? If (the model were created) before the world, what could have been its use? Was it for the saved souls? Why therefore were those souls not saved (by remaining within the model)? Under this hypothesis the creation of the model was useless. If (the model, however, was created) after this world, its author derived it from this world, stealing the form away from matter; the experience that the souls had acquired in their earlier trials sufficed to teach them to seek their salvation. Last, if the (Gnostics) pretend to have, in their souls, received the form of the world, we have a new incomprehensible language.
EXILES, REPENTANCES, ANTITYPES, AND OTHER GNOSTIC INVENTIONS.
6. We hardly know what to say of the other new conceptions they have injected into the universe, such as exiles, antitypes, and repentances. If by “repentances” and “exiles” they mean certain states of the Soul (in the normal meaning of the word, where a soul) yields to repentance; and if by “antitypes” they mean the images of the intelligible beings that the Soul contemplates before contemplating the intelligible beings themselves, they are using meaningless words, invented merely as catchwords and terms for their individual sect; for they imagine such fictions merely because they have failed clearly to understand the ancient wisdom of the Greeks. Before them the Greeks, clearly and simply, had spoken of “ascensions” of souls that issued from the “cavern,” and which insensibly rise to a truer contemplation. The doctrines of these (Gnostics) are partly stolen from Plato, while the remainder, which were invented merely to form their own individual system, are innovations contrary to truth. It is from Plato that they borrowed their judgments, the rivers of Hades. They do speak of several intelligible principles, such as essence, intelligence, the second demiurgic creator or universal Soul; but all that comes from Plato’s Timæus, which says, “Likewise as the ideas contained in the existing Organism were seen by Intelligence, so he [the creator of this universe] thought that the latter should contain similar and equally numerous (natures).” But, not clearly understanding Plato, the Gnostics here imagined (three principles), an intelligence at rest, which contains all (beings), a second intelligence that contemplates them (as they occur) in the first intelligence, and a third intelligence that thinks them discursively. They often consider this discursive intelligence as the creative soul, and they consider this to be the demiurgic creator mentioned by Plato, because they were entirely ignorant of the true nature of this demiurgic creator. In general, they alter entirely the idea of creation, as well as many other doctrines of Plato, and they give out an entirely erroneous interpretation thereof. They imagine that they alone have rightly conceived of intelligible nature, while Plato and many other divine intellects never attained thereto. By speaking of a multitude of intelligible principles, they think that they seem to possess an exact knowledge thereof, while really they degrade them, assimilating them to lower, and sensual beings, by increasing their number. The principles that exist on high must be reduced to the smallest number feasible; we must recognize that the principle below the First contains all (the essences), and so deny the existence of any intelligible (entities) outside of it, inasmuch as it contains all beings, by virtue of its being primary “Being,” of primary Intelligence, and of all that is beautiful beneath the First Himself. The Soul must be assigned to the third rank. The differences obtaining between souls must further be explained by the difference of their conditions or nature.
THE GNOSTICS MAY WELL BORROW FROM THE GREEKS, BUT SHOULD NOT DEPRECIATE THEM.
Instead of besmirching the reputation of divine men, the (Gnostics) should interpret the doctrines of the ancient sages in a friendly way, borrowing from them such as they are right in professing, as, for instance, the immortality of the soul, the existence of the intelligible world, and of the first Divinity (who is the Good), the necessity for the soul to flee from intercourse with the body, and the belief that separation of the soul from body is equivalent to a return from generation to “being.” They do well indeed if they borrow these ideas from Plato, for the purpose of developing them. They are even at liberty to express any opinion they please in diverging from his views; but their own doctrine should not be established in the minds of their followers by insults and sarcasms against Greek sages. They could only do so by demonstrating the propriety of their distinctive tenets, whenever they differ from those of the ancient philosophers, and by expounding their own tenets with a really philosophic reserve and equanimity. Even when they controvert a system they are still bound to consider nothing but the truth, without any attempt at self-glorification, either by attacking men whose teachings have long since been approved by worthy philosophers, or by claims of superiority to the latter. For that which the ancients taught on the subject of the intelligible world will always be considered as the best and wisest by all who do not permit themselves to be misled by the errors that to-day mislead so many.
GNOSTIC ADDITIONS TO PLATONISM ARE THEIR POOREST DOCTRINES.
If from the doctrines of the (Gnostics) we remove what they have borrowed from the teachings of the ancients, their remaining additions will be discovered as very unfortunate. Their polemic against (Greek philosophy) consists of an introduction of a great number of genealogies, and destructions, blaming the intercourse of the soul with the body, complaining of the universe, criticising its administration, identifying the demiurgic creator (that is, Intelligence) with the universal souls.
THE UNIVERSAL SOUL MAY NOT BE JUDGED BY THE HUMAN STANDARD.
7. Elsewhere we have demonstrated that this world never began, and will never end; and that it must last as long as the intelligible entities. We have also shown, and that earlier than these (Gnostics), that the soul’s intercourse with the body is not advantageous to her. But to judge the universal Soul according to ours is to resemble a man who would blame the totality of a well governed city by an examination limited to the workers in earth or metal.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE UNIVERSAL SOUL AND THE HUMAN SOUL.
The differences between the universal Soul and our (human) souls are very important. To begin with, the universal Soul does not govern the world in the same manner (as our soul governs the body); for she governs the world without being bound thereto. Besides many other differences elsewhere noted, we were bound to the body after the formation of a primary bond. In the universal Soul the nature that is bound to the body (of the world) binds all that it embraces; but the universal Soul herself is not bound by the things she binds. As she dominates them, she is impassible in respect to them, while we ourselves do not dominate exterior objects. Besides, that part of the universal Soul which rises to the intelligible world remains pure and independent; even that which communicates life to the body (of the world) receives nothing therefrom. In general what is in another being necessarily participates in the state of that being; but a principle which has its own individual life would not receive anything from any other source. That is why, when one thing is located within another, it feels the experiences of the latter, but does not any the less retain its individual life in the event of the destruction of the latter. For instance, if the fire within yourself be extinguished, that would not extinguish the universal fire; even if the latter were extinguished, the universal Soul would not feel it, and only the constitution of the body (of the world) would be affected thereby. If a world exclusively composed of the remaining three elements were a possibility, that would be of no importance to the universal Soul, because the world does not have a constitution similar that of each of the contained organisms. On high, the universal Soul soars above the world, and thereby imposes on it a sort of permanence; here below, the parts, which as it were flow off, are maintained in their place by a second bond. As celestial entities have no place (outside of the world), into which they might ooze out, there is no need of containing them from the interior, nor of compressing them from without to force them back within; they subsist in the location where the universal Soul placed them from the beginning. Those which naturally move modify the beings which possess no natural motion. They carry out well arranged revolutions because they are parts of the universe. Here below there are beings which perish because they cannot conform to the universal order. For instance, if a tortoise happened to be caught in the midst of a choric ballet that was dancing in perfect order, it would be trodden under foot because it could not withdraw from the effects of the order that regulated the feet of the dancers; on the contrary, if it conformed to that order, it would suffer no harm.
GNOSTIC DEMANDS FOR REASON OF WORLD’S CREATION ARE IDLE, AND INVOLVE STILL LARGER QUESTIONS.
8. To ask (as do the Gnostics) why the world was created, amounts to asking the reason of the existence of the universal Soul, and of the creation of the demiurgic creator himself. To ask such a question well characterizes men who first wish to find a principle of that which (in the world) is eternal, but who later opine that the demiurgic creator became the creating cause only as a result of an inclination or alteration. If indeed they be at all willing to listen to us fairly, we shall have to teach them the nature of these intelligible principles, to end their habit of scorning (those) venerable (intelligible) beings, and (to induce them to) pay these a deserved respect. No one, indeed, has the right to find fault with the constitution of the world, which reveals the greatness of intelligible nature. We are forced to recognize that the world is a beautiful and brilliant statue of the divinities, from the fact that the world achieved existence without beginning with an obscure life, such as that of the little organisms it contains, and which the productiveness of universal life never ceases to bring forth, by day or night; on the contrary, its life is continuous, clear, manifold, extended everywhere, and illustrating marvellous wisdom. It would be no more than natural that the world should not equal the model it imitates; otherwise, it would no longer be an imitation. It would be an error, however, to think that the world imitates its model badly; it lacks none of the things that could be contained by a beautiful and natural image; for it was necessary for this image to exist, without implying reasoning or skill.
INTELLIGENCE COULD NOT HAVE BEEN THE LAST DEGREE OF EXISTENCE.
Intelligence, indeed, could not be (the last degree of existence). It was necessarily actualization of a double nature, both within itself, and for other beings. It was inevitable that it should be followed by other beings, for only the most impotent being would fail to produce something that should proceed from it, while (it is granted that) the intelligible possesses a wonderful power; wherefore, it could not help creating.
THIS IS THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS BECAUSE WE CAN ACHIEVE VIRTUE.
What would be the nature of a world better than the present one, if it were possible? The present one must be a faithful image of the intelligible world, if the existence of the world be necessary, and if there be no better possible world. The whole earth is peopled with animate and even immortal beings; from here below up to the heaven (the world) is full of them. Why should the stars in the highest sphere (the fixed stars), and those in the lower spheres (the planets), not be divinities, in view of their regular motion, and their carrying out a magnificent revolution around the world? Why should they not possess virtue? What obstacle could hinder them from acquiring it? Not on high are found the things which here below make men evil; namely, that evil nature which both is troubled, and troubles. With their perpetual leisure why should not the stars possess intelligence, and be acquainted with the divinity and all the other intelligible deities? How should we possess a wisdom greater than theirs? Only a foolish man would entertain such thoughts. How could our souls be superior to the stars when at the hands of the universal Soul they undergo the constraint of descending here below? For the best part of souls is that which commands. If, on the contrary, the souls descend here below voluntarily, why should the (Gnostics) find fault with this sphere whither they came voluntarily, and from which they can depart whenever it suits them? That everything here below depends on the intelligible principles is proved by the fact that the organization of the world is such that, during this life, we are able to acquire wisdom, and live out a life similar to that of the divinities.
THE INEQUALITY OF RICHES IS OF NO MOMENT TO AN ETERNAL BEING.
9. No one would complain of poverty and the unequal distribution of wealth if one realized that the sage does not seek equality in such things, because he does not consider that the rich man has any advantage over the poor man, the prince over the subject. The sage leaves such opinions to commonplace people, for he knows that there are two kinds of life; that of the virtuous who achieve the supreme degree (of perfection) and the intelligible world, and that of common earthly men. Even the latter life is double; for though at times they do think of virtue, and participate somewhat in the good, at other times they form only a vile crowd, and are only machines, destined to satisfy the primary needs of virtuous people. There is no reason to be surprised at a man committing a murder, or, through weakness, yielding to his passions, when souls, that behave like young, inexperienced persons, not indeed like intelligences, daily behave thus. It has been said that this life is a struggle in which one is either victor or vanquished. But is not this very condition a proof of good arrangement? What does it matter if you are wronged, so long as you are immortal? If you be killed, you achieve the fate that you desired. If you have reason to complain of how you are treated in some particular city, you can leave it. Besides, even here below, there evidently are rewards and punishments. Why then complain of a society within which distributive justice is exercised, where virtue is honored, and where vice meets its deserved punishment?
MOREOVER THIS WORLD CONTAINS TRADITIONS OF DIVINITY.
Not only are there here below statues of the divinities, but even the divinities condescend to look on us, leading everything in an orderly manner from beginning to end, and they apportion to each the fate that suits him, and which harmonizes with his antecedents in his successive existences. This is unknown only to persons who are most vulgarly ignorant of divine things. Try therefore to become as good as you can, but do not on that account imagine that you alone are capable of becoming good; for then you would no longer be good. Other men (than you) are good; there are most excellent (ministering spirits called) guardians; further, there are deities who, while inhabiting this world, contemplate the intelligible world, and are still better than the guardians. Further still is the blissful (universal) Soul that manages the universe. Honor therefore the intelligible divinities, and above all the great King of the intelligible world, whose greatness is especially manifested in the multitude of the divinities.
TRUE KNOWLEDGE SHOWN NOT BY UNIFICATION, BUT REVELATION OF DIVINE POWER.
It is not by reducing all things to unity, but by setting forth the greatness developed by the divinity itself, that one manifests his knowledge of divine power. The Divinity (manifests His power) when, though remaining what He is, He produces many divinities which depend on Him, which proceed from Him, and exist by Him. In this way this world holds existence from Him, and contemplates Him along with all the divinities which announce to men the divine decrees, and who reveal to them whatever pleases them. These stars must not be blamed for not being what the divinity is, for they only represent their nature.
MODESTY IS A PART OF GOODNESS; PRIDE IS FOLLY.
If, however, you pretend to scorn these (stars that are considered) divinities, and if you hold yourself in high esteem, on the plea that you are not far inferior to them, learn first that the best man is he who is most modest in his relations with divinities and men. In the second place, learn that one should think of the divinity only within limits, without insolence, and not to seek to rise to a condition that is above human possibilities. It is unreasonable to believe that there is no place by the side of the divinity for all other men, while impudently proposing alone to aspire to that dignity. This by itself would deprive the Soul of the possibility of assimilation to the Divinity to the limit of her receptivity. This the Soul cannot attain unless guided by Intelligence. To pretend to rise above Intelligence, is to fall short of it. There are people insane enough to believe, without reflection, claims such as the following (“By initiation into secret knowledge, or gnosis), you will be better, not only than all men, but even than all the deities.” These people are swollen with pride; and men who before were modest, simple and humble, become arrogant on hearing themselves say, “You are a child of the divinity; the other men that you used to honor are not his children, any more than the stars who were worshipped by the ancients. You yourself, without working, are better than heaven itself.” Then companions crowd around him, and applaud his utterance. He resembles a man who, though not knowing how to count, should, in the midst of a crowd of men, equally ignorant with him, hear it said by somebody that he was a thousand feet high while others were only five feet high. He would not realize what was meant by a thousand feet, but he would consider this measure very great.
OTHER GNOSTIC INCONSISTENCIES.
(Gnostics) admit that the Divinity interests Himself in men. How then could He (as they insist), neglect the world that contains them? Could this be the case because He lacked the leisure to look after it? In this case He would lack the leisure to look after anything beneath Him (including men also). On the other hand, if He do care for men, that care would include the world that surrounds and contains them. If He ignored what surrounded men, in order to ignore the world, He would thereby also ignore the men themselves. The objection that men do need that the Divinity should care for the world (is not true), for the world does need the care of the Divinity. The Divinity knows the arrangement of the world, the men it contains, and their condition therein. The friends of the Divinity support meekly all that results necessarily therefrom. (They are right), for that which happens should be considered not only from one’s own standpoint, but also from that of the totality of circumstances. Each (person or thing) should be considered from his place (in the scale of existence); one should ever aspire to Him to whom aspire all beings capable of (the Good); one should be persuaded that many beings, or rather that all beings, aspire thereto; that those who attain to Him are happy, while the others achieve a fate suitable to their nature; finally, one should not imagine oneself alone capable of attaining happiness. Mere assertion of possession does not suffice for real possession thereof. There are many men who, though perfectly conscious that they do not possess some good, nevertheless boast of its possession, or who really believe they do possess it, when the opposite is the true state of affairs; or that they exclusively possess it when they are the only ones who do not possess it.
PLOTINUS ADDRESSES HIMSELF TO THOSE OF HIS FRIENDS WHO WERE FORMERLY GNOSTIC, NOT TO THE LATTER WHO ARE HOPELESS.
10. On examining many other assertions (of the Gnostics), or rather, all of their assertions, we find more than enough to come to some conclusion concerning the details of their doctrines. We cannot, indeed, help blushing when we see some of our friends, who had imbued themselves with (Gnostic) doctrines before becoming friends of ours, somehow or another persevere therein, working zealously to try to prove that they deserved full confidence, or speaking as if they were still convinced that they were based on good grounds. We are here addressing our friends, not the partisans (of the Gnostics). Vainly indeed would we try to persuade the latter not to let themselves be deceived by men who furnish no proofs—what proofs indeed could they furnish?—but who only impose on others by their boastfulness.
PLOTINUS HAS NO INTENTION OF WRITING A FULL CONFUTATION.
Following another kind of discussion, we might write a refutation of these men who are impudent enough to ridicule the teachings of those divine men who taught in ancient times, and who conformed entirely to truth. We shall not however embark on this, for whoever understands what we have already said will from that (sample) be able to judge of the remainder.
GNOSTIC THEORY OF CREATION BY MERE ILLUMINATION.
Neither will we controvert an assertion which overtops all their others in absurdity—we use this term for lack of a stronger. Here it is: “The Soul and another Wisdom inclined downwards towards things here below, either because the Soul first inclined downwards spontaneously, or because she was misled by Wisdom; or because (in Gnostic view), Soul and Wisdom were identical. The other souls descended here below together (with the Soul), as well as the “members of Wisdom,” and entered into bodies, probably human. Nevertheless the Soul, on account of which the other soul descended here below, did not herself descend. She did not incline, so to speak, but only illuminated the darkness. From this illumination was born in matter an image (Wisdom, the image of the Soul). Later was formed (the demiurgic creator, called) an image of the image, by means of matter or materiality, or of a principle by (Gnostics) designated by another name (the “Fruit of the fall”)—for they make use of many other names, for the purpose of increasing obscurity. This is how they derive their demiurgic creator. They also suppose that this demiurgic creator separated himself from his mother, Wisdom, and from him they deduce the whole world even to the extremity of the images.” The perpetration of such assertions amounts to a bitter sarcasm of the power that created the world.
THE NUMBERLESS INTELLECTUAL DIFFICULTIES OF SUCH A THEORY.
11. To begin with, if the Soul did not descend, if she limited herself to illuminating the darkness (which is synonymous with matter), by what right could it be asserted that the Soul inclined (downwards)? If indeed a kind of light issued from the Soul, this does not justify an inclination of the Soul, unless we admit the existence of something (darkness) beneath her, that the Soul approached the darkness by a local movement, and that, on arriving near it, the Soul illuminated it. On the contrary, if the Soul illuminated it while remaining self-contained, without doing anything to promote that illumination, why did the Soul alone illuminate the darkness? (According to the Gnostics) this occurred only after the Soul had conceived the Reason of the universe. Then only could the Soul illuminate the darkness, by virtue of this rational conception. But then, why did the Soul not create the world at the same time she illuminated the darkness, instead of waiting for the generation of (“psychic) images”? Further, why did this Reason of the world, which (the Gnostics) call the “foreign land,” and which was produced by the superior powers, as they say, not move its authors to that inclination? Last, why does this illuminated matter produce psychic images, and not bodies? (Wisdom, or) the image of the Soul does not seem to stand in need of darkness or matter. If the Soul create, then her image (Wisdom) should accompany her, and remain attached to her. Besides, what is this creature of hers? Is it a being, or is it, as the (Gnostics) say, a conception? If it be a being, what difference is there between it and its principle? If it be some other kind of a soul, it must be a “soul of growth and generation,” since its principle is a reasonable soul. If however (this Wisdom) be a “soul of growth and generation,” how could it be said to have created for the purpose of being honored? In short, how could it have been created by pride, audacity, and imagination? Still less would we have the right to say that it had been created by virtue of a rational conception. Besides, what necessity was there for the mother of the demiurgic creator to have formed him of matter and of an image? Speaking of conception, it would be necessary to explain the origin of this term; then, unless a creative force be predicated of this conception, it would be necessary to show how a conception can constitute a real being. But what creative force can be inherent in this imaginary being? The (Gnostics) say that this image (the demiurgic creator) was produced first, and that only afterwards other images were created; but they permit themselves to assert that without any proof. For instance, how could it be said that fire was produced first (and other things only later)?
HOW THE GNOSTIC DEMIURGE CREATED.
12. How could this newly formed image (the demiurgic creator) have undertaken to create by memory of the things he knew? As he did not exist before, he could not have known anything, any more than the mother (Wisdom) which is attributed to him. Besides, it is quite surprising that, though the (Gnostics) did not descend upon this world as images of souls, but as veritable, genuine souls, nevertheless hardly one or two of them succeeds in detaching themselves from the (sense) world and by gathering together their memories, to remember some of the things they previously knew, while this image (the demiurgical creator), as well as his mother (Wisdom), which is a material image, was capable of conceiving intelligible entities in a feeble manner, indeed, as say the Gnostics, but after all from her very birth. Not only did she conceive intelligible things, and formed an idea of the sense-world from the intelligible world, but she also discovered with what elements she was to produce the sense-world. Why did she first create the fire? Doubtless because she judged she would begin thereby; for why did she not begin with some other element? If she could produce fire because she had the conception thereof, why, as she had the conception of the world—as she must have begun by a conception of the totality—did she not create the whole at one single stroke? Indeed, this conception of the world embraced all its parts. It would also have been more natural, for the demiurgical creator should not have acted like a workman, as all the arts are posterior to nature and to the creation of the world. Even to-day, we do not see the natures when they beget individuals, first produce the fire, then the other elements successively, and finally mingle them. On the contrary, the outline and organization of the entire organism are formed at once in the germ born at the monthly periods in the womb of the mother. Why then, in creation, should matter not have been organized at one stroke by the type of the world, a type that must have contained fire, earth, and all the rest of them? Perhaps the (Gnostics) would have thus conceived of the creation of the world, if (instead of an image) they had had in their system a genuine Soul. But their demiurgic creator could not have proceeded thus. To conceive of the greatness, and especially of the dimension of the heavens, of the obliquity of the zodiac, of the course of the stars, the form of the earth, and to understand the reason of each of these things, would not have been the work of an image, but rather of a power that proceeded from the better principles, as the (Gnostics) in spite of themselves acknowledge.
THE NECESSITY OF THE ILLUMINATION OF THE DARKNESS MUST HAVE BEEN ETERNAL.
Indeed, if we examine attentively that in which this illumination of the darkness consists, the (Gnostics) may be led to a recognition of the true principles of the world. Why was the production of this illumination of the darkness necessary, if its existence was not absolutely unavoidable? This necessity (of an illumination of the darkness) was either in conformity with, or in opposition to nature. If it conformed thereto, it must have been so from all time; if it were contrary thereto, something contrary to nature would have happened to the divine powers, and evil would be prior to the world. Then it would no longer be the world that was the cause of evil (as the Gnostics claim), but the divine powers. The world is not the principle of evil for the soul, but it is the soul that is the principle of evil for the world. Ascending from cause to cause, reason will relate this world to the primary principles.
EVEN THE EXISTENCE OF THE DARKNESS MUST BE RELATED TO THE SOUL.
If matter is also said to be the cause of evil, where does it originate? For the darkness existed already, as say (the Gnostics), when the soul has seen and illuminated them. From whence (comes darkness)? If (the Gnostics) answer that it is the soul herself that created (darkness) by inclining (downwards to matter), then evidently (the darkness) did not exist before the inclination of the soul. Darkness therefore is not the cause of this inclination; the cause is in the nature of the soul. This cause may thus be related to preceding necessities, and as a result to first principles.
INSTEAD OF COMPLAINING OF THE WORLD, UNDERSTAND IT AND FIT YOURSELF TO IT.
13. Those who complain of the nature of the world do not know what they are doing, nor the extent of their audacity. Many men are ignorant of the close concatenation which unites the entities of the first, second, and third ranks, and which descends even to those of the lowest degree. Instead of blaming what is subordinate to first principles, we should gently submit to the laws of the universe, rise to first principles, not undergo those tragic terrors, inspired in certain people by the spheres of the world which exert on us nothing but a beneficent influence. What is so terrible in them? Why should they be feared by these men foreign to philosophy and all sound learning? Though celestial spheres do have fiery bodies, they should not inspire us with any fear, because they are perfectly harmonious with the universe and with the earth. We must besides consider the souls of the stars to which those (Gnostics) consider themselves so superior, while their bodies, which surpass ours so much in size and beauty, efficaciously concur in the production of things that are conformed to the order of nature; for such things could not be born if first principles alone existed. Finally the stars complete the universe, and are important members thereof. If even man holds a great superiority over animals, there must be a far greater superiority in those stars which exist as ornaments to the universe, and to establish order therein, and not to exert thereover a tyrannical influence. The events that are said to flow from the stars are rather signs thereof than causes. Besides, the events that really do flow from the stars differ among each other by circumstances. It is not therefore possible that the same things should happen to all men, separated as they are by their times of birth, the places of their residence, and the dispositions of their souls. It is just as unreasonable to expect that all would be good, nor, because of the impossibility of this, to go and complain on the grounds that all sense-objects should be similar to intelligible objects. Moreover, evil is nothing but what is less complete in respect to wisdom, and less good, in a decreasing gradation. For instance, nature (that is, the power of growth and generation) should not be called evil because she is not sensation; nor sensation be called evil, because it is not reason. Otherwise, we might be led to think that there was evil in the intelligible world. Indeed, the Soul is inferior to Intelligence, and Intelligence is inferior to the One.
GNOSTICS WRONGLY IMAGINE INTELLIGIBLE ENTITIES CAN BE BEWITCHED.
14. Another error of the (Gnostics) is their teaching that intelligible beings are not beyond the reach of being affected by human beings. When the (Gnostics) utter magic incantations, addressing them to (intelligible beings), not only to the Soul, but to the Principles superior thereto, what are they really trying to do? To bewitch them? To charm them? Or, to influence them? They therefore believe that divine beings listen to us, and that they obey him who skilfully pronounces these songs, cries, aspirations and whistlings, to all of which they ascribe magic power. If they do not really mean this, if they by sounds only claim to express things which do not fall under the senses, then, through their effort to make their art more worthy of respect, they unconsciously rob it of all claim to respect, in our estimation.
THEIR EXPLANATION OF DISEASE AS DEMONIACAL POSSESSION IS WRONG.
They also pride themselves on expelling diseases. If this were done through temperance, by a well regulated life, as do the philosophers, this claim might be respected. But they insist that diseases are demons, which they can expel by their words, and they boast of this in order to achieve reputation among the common people, that is always inclined to stand in awe of magic. They could not persuade rational individuals that diseases do not have natural causes, such as fatigue, satiety, lack of food, corruption, or some change depending on an interior or exterior principle. This is proved by the nature of diseases. Sometimes a disease is expelled by moving the bowels, or by the administration of some potion; diet and bleeding are also often resorted to. Is this because the demon is hungry, or the potion destroys him? When a person is healed on the spot, the demon either remains or departs. If he remain, how does his presence not hinder recovery? If he depart, why? What has happened to him? Was he fed by the disease? In this case, the disease was something different from the demon. If he enter without any cause for the disease, why is the individual into whose body he enters not always sick? If he enter into a body that contains already a natural cause of disease, how far does he contribute to the disease? The natural cause is sufficient to produce the disease. It would be ridiculous to suppose that the disease would have a cause, but that, as soon as this cause is active there would be a demon ready to come and assist it.
THE GENUINE VALUE OF GNOSTICISM SEEN IN ITS LOW MORAL ASPECTS.
The reader must now clearly see the kind of assertions given out by the (Gnostics), and what their purpose must be. What they say about demons (or guardians) has here been mentioned only as a commentary on their vain pretenses. Other opinions of the (Gnostics) may best be judged by a perusal of their books, by each individual for himself. Remember always that our system of philosophy contains, beside the other good (reasons), the simplicity of moral habits, the purity of intelligence, and that instead of vain boasting it recommends the care of personal dignity, rational self-confidence, prudence, reserve, and circumspection. The remainder (of Gnostic philosophy) may well be contrasted with ours. As all that is taught by the Gnostics is very different (from our teachings), we would have no advantage in a further detailed contrast; and it would be unworthy of us to pursue the matter(?).
THE GNOSTIC DESTINY OF MAN IS DEMORALIZING.
15. We should however observe the moral effect produced in the soul of those who listen to the speeches of these men who teach scorn of the world and its contents. About the destiny of man there are two principal doctrines. The one assigns as our end the pleasures of the body, the other suggests honesty and virtue, the love of which comes from the divinity, and leads back to the Divinity, as we have shown elsewhere. Epicurus, who denies divine Providence, advises us to seek the only thing that remains, the enjoyments of pleasure. Well, the (Gnostics) hold a still more pernicious doctrine; they blame the manner in which divine Providence operates, and they accuse Providence itself; they refuse respect to laws established here below, and the virtue which has been honored by all centuries. To destroy the last vestiges of honor, they destroy temperance by joking at it; they attack justice, whether natural, or acquired by reason or exercise; in one word, they annihilate everything that could lead to virtue. Nothing remains but to seek out pleasure, to profess selfishness, to renounce all social relations with men, to think only of one’s personal interest, unless indeed one’s own innate disposition be good enough to resist their pernicious doctrines. Nothing that we regard as good is by them esteemed, for they seek entirely different objects.
THE GNOSTICS IGNORE VIRTUE WITHOUT WHICH GOD IS A MERE WORD.
Nevertheless, those who know the Divinity should attach themselves to Him even here below, and by devoting themselves to His first principles, correct earthly things by applying their divine nature thereto. Only a nature that disdains physical pleasure can understand that of which honor consists; those who have no virtue could never rise to intelligible entities. Our criticism of the (Gnostics) is justified by this that they never speak of virtue, never study it, give no definition of it, do not make out its kinds, and never repeat anything of the beautiful discussions thereof left to us by the ancient sages. The (Gnostics) never tell how one could acquire or preserve moral qualities, how one should cultivate or purify the soul. Their precept, “Contemplate the divinity,” is useless if one does not also teach how this contemplation is to take place. One might ask the (Gnostics) if such contemplation of the divinity would be hindered by any lust or anger? What would hinder one from repeating the name of the divinity, while yielding to the domination of the passions, and doing nothing to repress them? Virtue, when perfected, and by wisdom solidly established in the soul, is what shows us the divinity. Without real virtue, God is no more than a name.
SCORN OF THIS WORLD IS NO GUARANTEE OF GOODNESS.
16. One does not become a good man merely by scorning the divinities, the world, and the beauties it contains. Scorn of the divinities is the chief characteristic of the evil. Perversity is never complete until scorn of the divinities is reached; and if a man were not otherwise perverse, this vice would be sufficient to make him such. The respect which the (Gnostic) pretend to have for the intelligible divinities (the æons) is an illogical accident. For when one loves a being, he loves all that attaches thereto; he extends to the children the affection for the parent. Now every soul is a daughter of the heavenly Father. The souls that preside over the stars are intellectual, good, and closer to the divinity than ours. How could this sense-world, with the divinities it contains, be separated from the intelligible world? We have already shown above the impossibility of such a separation. Here we insist that when one scorns beings so near to those that hold the front rank, it can only be that one knows them by name only.
TO EXCEPT CERTAIN CLASSES OF BEING FROM DIVINE CARE IS TO SHOW CALLOUSNESS OF DISPOSITION.
How could it ever be considered pious to claim that divine Providence does not extend to sense-objects, or at least interests itself only in some of them (the spiritual men, not the psychical)? Such an assertion must surely be illogical. The (Gnostics) claim that divine Providence interests itself only in them. Was this the case while they were living on high, or only since they live here below? In the first case, why did they descend onto this earth? In the second, why do they remain here below? Besides, why should the Divinity not be present here below also? Otherwise how could He know that the (Gnostics), who are here below, have not forgotten Him, and have not become perverse? If He know those that have not become perverse, He must also know those who have become perverse, to distinguish the former from the latter. He must therefore be present to all men, and to the entire world, in some manner or other. Thus the world will participate in the Divinity. If the Divinity deprived the world of His presence, He would deprive you also thereof, and you could not say anything of Him or of the beings below Him. The world certainly derives its existence from Him whether the divinity protect you by His providence or His help, and whatever be the name by which you refer to Him. The world never was deprived of the Divinity, and never will be. The world has a better right than any individuals to the attentions of Providence, and to participation in divine perfections. This is particularly true in respect to the universal Soul, as is proved by the existence and wise arrangement of the world. Which of these so proud individuals is as well arranged, and as wise as the universe, and could even enter into such a comparison without ridicule or absurdity? Indeed, unless made merely in the course of a discussion, such a comparison is really an impiety. To doubt such truths is really the characteristic of a blind and senseless man, without experience or reason, and who is so far removed from knowledge of the intelligible world that he does not even know the sense-world? Could any musician who had once grasped the intelligible harmonies hear that of sense-sounds without profound emotion? What skillful geometrician or arithmetician will fail to enjoy symmetry, order and proportion, in the objects that meet his view? Though their eyes behold the same objects as common people, experts see in them different things; when, for instance, with practiced glance, they examine some picture. When recognizing in sense-objects an image of intelligible (essence), they are disturbed and reminded of genuine beauty: that is the origin of love. One rises to the intelligible by seeing a shining image of beauty glowing in a human face. Heavy and senseless must be that mind which could contemplate all the visible beauties, this harmony, and this imposing arrangement, this grand panoramic view furnished by the stars in spite of their distance, without being stirred to enthusiasm, and admiration of their splendor and magnificence. He who can fail to experience such feelings must have failed to observe sense-objects, or know even less the intelligible world.
GNOSTICS JUSTIFY THEIR HATE OF THE BODY BY PLATO; IN THIS CASE THEY SHOULD FOLLOW HIM ALSO IN ADMIRATION OF THE WORLD.
17. Some (Gnostics) object that they hate the body because Plato complains much of it, as an obstacle to the soul, and as something far inferior to her. In this case, they should, making abstraction of the body of the world by thought, consider the rest; that is, the intelligible sphere which contains within it the form of the world, and then the incorporeal souls which, in perfect order, communicate greatness to matter by modeling it in space according to an intelligible model, so that what is begotten might, so far as possible, by its greatness, equal the indivisible nature of its model; for the greatness of sense-mass here below corresponds to the greatness of intelligible power. Let the (Gnostics) therefore consider the celestial sphere, whether they conceive of it as set in motion by the divine power that contains its principle, middle and end, or whether they imagine it as immovable, and not yet exerting its action on any of the things it governs by its revolution. In both ways they will attain a proper idea of the Soul that presides over this universe. Let them then conceive of this soul as united to a body, though remaining impassible, and still communicating to this body so far as the latter is capable of participating therein, some of its perfections, for the divinity is incapable of jealousy. Then they will form a proper idea of the world. They will understand how great is the power of the Soul, since she makes the body participate in her beauty to the limit of her receptivity. This body has no beauty by nature, but when (it is beautified by the Soul) it entrances divine souls.
GNOSTICS BOAST OF LACK OF APPRECIATION OF BEAUTY ALREADY RECOGNIZED.
The (Gnostics) pretend that they have no appreciation for the beauty of the world, and that they make no distinction between beautiful and ugly bodies. In this case they should not distinguish good from bad taste, nor recognize beauty in the sciences, in contemplation, nor in the divinity itself; for sense-beings possess beauty only by participation in first principles. If they be not beautiful, neither could those first principles be such. Consequently sense-beings are beautiful, though less beautiful than intelligible beings. The scorn professed by (Gnostics) for sense-beauty is praiseworthy enough if it refer only to the beauty of women and of young boys, and if its only purpose be to lead to chastity. But you may be sure that they do not boast of scorning what is ugly, they only boast of scorning what they had at first recognized and loved as being beautiful.
EVEN EXTERIOR OR PARTIAL BEAUTY NEED NOT CONFLICT WITH THE BEAUTY OF THE UNIVERSE; AND IN ANY CASE THERE WOULD BE NO EVIL IN IT.
We must further observe that it is not the same beauty that is seen in the parts and in the whole, in individuals and in the universe; that there are beauties great enough in sense-objects and in individuals, for instance, in the guardians, to lead us to admire their creator, and to prove to us that they indeed are works of his. In this way we may attain a conception of the unspeakable beauty of the universal Soul, if we do not attach ourselves to sense-objects, and if, without scorning them, we know how to rise to intelligible entities. If the interior of a sense-being be beautiful, we shall judge that it is in harmony with its exterior beauty. If it be ugly we will consider that it is inferior to its principle. But it is impossible for a being really to be beautiful in its exterior while ugly within; for the exterior is beautiful only in so far as it is dominated by the interior. Those who are called beautiful, but who are ugly within, are externally beautiful only deceptively. In contradiction to those who claim that there are men who possess a beautiful body and an ugly soul, I insist that such never existed, and that it was a mistake to consider them beautiful. If such men were ever seen, their interior ugliness was accidental, and also their soul was, by nature, beautiful; for we often meet here below obstacles which hinder us from reaching our goal. But the universe cannot by any obstacle be hindered from possessing interior beauty in the same way that it possesses exterior beauty. The beings to whom nature has not, from the beginning, given perfection, may indeed not attain their goal, and consequently may become perverted; but the universe never was a child, nor imperfect; it did not develop, and received no physical increase. Such a physical increase would have been impossible inasmuch as it already possessed everything. Nor could we admit that its Soul had ever, in the course of time, gained any increase. But even if this were granted to the (Gnostics), this could not constitute any evil.
RECOGNITION OF THE BEAUTY OF THE BODY NEED NOT IMPLY ATTACHMENT THERETO; IT IS COMPATIBLE WITH RESIGNATION.
18. (Gnostics) however might object that their doctrine inspired revulsion from, and hate for the body, while (that of Plotinus) really attached the soul to the body (by recognition of its beauty). Hardly. We may illustrate by two guests who dwelt together in a beautiful house. The first guest blamed the disposition of the plan, and the architect who constructed it, but nevertheless remained within it. The other guest, instead of blaming the architect, praised his skill, and awaited the time when he might leave this house, when he should no longer need it. The first guest would think himself wiser and better prepared to leave because he had learned to repeat that walls are composed of lifeless stones and beams, and that this house was far from truly representing the intelligible house. He would however not know that the only difference obtaining between him and his companion, is that he did not know how to support necessary things, while his companion (who did not blame the house) will be able to leave it without regret because he loved stone-buildings only very moderately. So long as we have a body we have to abide in these houses constructed by the (world) Soul, who is our beneficent sister, and who had the power to do such great things without any effort.
GNOSTICS ACKNOWLEDGE KINSHIP WITH DEPRAVED MEN, BUT REFUSE IT TO THE BEAUTIFUL UNIVERSE, OF WHICH WE SHOULD BE FAR PROUDER.
The Gnostics do not hesitate to call the most abandoned men their “brothers,” but refuse this name to the sun, and the other deities of heaven, and to the very Soul of the world, fools that they are! Doubtless, to unite ourselves thus to the stars by the bonds of kindred, we must no longer be perverse, we must have become good, and instead of being bodies, we must be souls in these bodies; and, so far as possible, we must dwell within our bodies in the same manner as the universal Soul dwells within the body of the universe. To do this, one has to be firm, not allow oneself to be charmed by the pleasures of sight or hearing, and to remain untroubled by any reverse. The Soul of the world is not troubled by anything, because she is outside of the reach of all. We, however, who here below are exposed to the blows of fortune, must repel them by our virtue, weakening some, and foiling others by our constancy and greatness of soul. When we shall thus have approached this power which is out of the reach (of all exigencies), having approached the Soul of the universe and of the stars, we shall try to become her image, and even to increase this resemblance to the assimilation of fusion. Then, having been well disposed by nature and exercised, we also will contemplate what these souls have been contemplating since the beginning. We must also remember that the boast of some men that they alone have the privilege of contemplating the intelligible world does not mean that they really contemplate this world any more than any other men.
GNOSTICS WHO BOAST SUPERIORITY TO THE DIVINITIES WHO CANNOT LEAVE THEIR BODIES ARE IN REALITY IGNORANT OF THE TRUE STATE OF AFFAIRS.
Vainly also do some (Gnostics) boast of having to leave their bodies when they will have ceased to live, while this is impossible to the divinities because they always fill the same function in heaven. They speak thus only because of their ignorance of what it is to be outside of the body, and of how the universal Soul in her entirety wisely governs what is inanimate.
THE JEALOUS DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE SPIRITUAL, PSYCHIC AND MATERIAL IS DUE CHIEFLY TO IGNORANCE OF OTHER PEOPLE’S ATTAINMENTS.
We ourselves may very well not love the body, we may become pure, scorn death, and both recognize and follow spiritual things that are superior to earthly things. But on this account we should not be jealous of other men, who are not only capable of following the same goal, but who do constantly pursue it. Let us not insist that they are incapable of doing so. Let us not fall into the same error as those who deny the movement of the stars, because their senses show them to remain immovable. Let us not act as do the (Gnostics), who believe that the nature of the stars does not see what is external, because they themselves do not see that their own souls are outside.