Ennead 3.1. Concerning Fate.


1. The first possibility is that there is a cause both for the things that become, and those that are; the cause of the former being their becoming, and that of the latter, their existence. Again, neither of them may have a cause. Or, in both cases, some may have a cause, and some not. Further, those that become might have a cause, while, of these that exist, some might partly have a cause. Contrariwise, all things that exist may have a cause, while of those that become, parts may have a cause, and part not. Last, none of the things that become might have any cause.


Speaking of eternal things, the first cannot be derived from other causes, just because they are first. Things dependent from the first, however, may indeed thence derive their being. To each thing we should also attribute the resultant action; for a thing’s being is constituted by its displayed energy.


Now among the things that become, or among those that although perpetually existent do not always result in the same actions, it may be boldly asserted that everything has a cause. We should not admit (the Stoic contention) that something happens without a cause, nor accept the (Epicurean) arbitrary convergence of the atoms, nor believe that any body initiates a movement suddenly and without determining reason, nor suppose (with Epicurus again) that the soul undertakes some action by a blind impulse, without any motive. Thus to suppose that a thing does not belong to itself, that it could be carried away by involuntary movements, and act without motive, would be to subject it to the most crushing determinism. The will must be excited, or the desire awakened by some interior or exterior stimulus. No determination (is possible) without motive.


If everything that happens has a cause, it is possible to discover such fact’s proximate causes, and to them refer this fact. People go downtown, for example, to see a person, or collect a bill. In all cases it is a matter of choice, followed by decision, and the determination to carry it out. There are, indeed, certain facts usually derived from the arts; as for instance the re-establishment of health may be referred to medicine and the physician. Again, when a man has become rich, this is due to his finding some treasure, or receiving some donation, to working, or exercising some lucrative profession. The birth of a child depends on its father, and the concourse of exterior circumstances, which, by the concatenation of causes and effects, favored his procreation; for example, right food, or even a still more distant cause, the fertility of the mother, or, still more generally, of nature (or, in general, it is usual to assign natural causes).


2. To stop, on arriving at these causes, and to refuse further analysis, is to exhibit superficiality. This is against the advice of the sages, who advise ascending to the primary causes, to the supreme principles. For example, why, during the full moon, should the one man steal, and the other one not steal? Or, why, under the same influence of the heavens, has the one, and not the other, been sick? Why, by use of the same means, has the one become rich, and the other poor? The difference of dispositions, characters, and fortunes force us to seek ulterior causes, as indeed the sages have always done.


Those sages who (like Leucippus, Democritus and Epicurus) assumed material principles such as the atoms, and who explain everything by their motion, their shock and combinations, pretend that everything existent and occurring is caused by the agency of these atoms, their “actions and reactions.” This includes, according to them, our appetites and dispositions. The necessity residing in the nature of these principles, and in their effects, is therefore, by these sages, extended to everything that exists. As to the (Ionic Hylicists), who assume other physical (ultimate) principles, referring everything to them, they thus also subject all beings to necessity.


There are others (such as Heraclitus), who, seeking the (supreme) principle of the universe, refer everything to it; saying that this principle penetrates, moves, and produces everything. This they call Fate, and the Supreme Cause. From it they derive everything; its motions are said to give rise not only to the things that are occurring, but even our thought. That is how the members of an animal do not move themselves, but receive the stimulus from the “governing principle” within them.


Some (of the astrologers) explain everything by the circular motion of the heavens, by the relative positions of the planets and stars, and by their mutual aspects (or, relations). They base this (principle) on the prevalent habit of deducing therefrom conjectures about futurity.


Others (like the Stoic Chrysippus) define Fate otherwise: it is “the concatenation of causes” in “their connection towards the infinite,” by which every posterior fact is the consequence of an anterior one. Thus the things that follow relate to the things that precede, and, as their effects, necessarily depend thereupon. Amidst these (Stoic) philosophers there are two conceptions of Fate: some consider that everything depends from a single principle, while others do not. These views we shall study later.

We shall first examine the system with which we began; later we shall review the others.


3. To refer everything to physical causes, whether you call them atoms or elements, and from their disordered motion to deduce order, reason and the soul that directs (the body), is absurd and impossible; nevertheless, to deduce everything from atoms, is, if possible, still more impossible; and consequently many valid objections have been raised against this theory.


To begin with, even if we do admit such atomic principles, their existence does not in any way inevitably lead to either the necessity of all things, or fatality. Let us, indeed, grant the existence of atoms; now some will move downwards—that is, if there is an up and down in the universe—others obliquely, by chance, in various directions. As there will be no order, there will be nothing determinate. Only what will be born of the atoms will be determinate. It will therefore be impossible to guess or predict events, whether by art—and indeed, how could there be any art in the midst of orderless things?—or by enthusiasm, or divine inspiration; for prediction implies that the future is determined. True, bodies will obey the impulses necessarily communicated to them by the atoms; but how could you explain the operations and affections of the soul by movements of atoms? How could atomic shock, whether vertical or oblique, produce in the soul these our reasonings, or appetites, whether necessarily, or in any other way? What explanation could they give of the soul’s resistance to the impulsions of the body? By what concourse of atoms will one man become a geometrician, another become a mathematician and astronomer, and the other a philosopher? For, according to that doctrine we no longer produce any act for which we are responsible, we are even no longer living beings, since we undergo the impulsion of bodies that affect us just as they do inanimate things.


The same objections apply to the doctrine of the philosophers who explain everything by other physical causes (such as “elements”). Principles of inferior nature might well warm us, cool us, or even make us perish; but they could not beget any of the operations which the soul produces; these have an entirely different cause.


4. But might (Heraclitus) suppose that a single Soul interpenetrating the universe produces everything, and by supplying the universe with motion supplies it simultaneously to all its constituent beings, so that from this primary cause, would necessarily flow all secondary causes, whose sequence and connection would constitute Fate? Similarly, in a plant, for instance, the plant’s fate might be constituted by the (“governing”) principle which, from the root, administers its other parts, and which organizes into a single system their “actions” and “reactions.”


To begin with, this Necessity and Fate would by their excess destroy themselves, and render impossible the sequence and concatenation of the causes. It is, indeed, absurd to insist that our members are moved by Fate when they are set in motion, or innervated, by the “governing principle.” It is a mistake to suppose that there is a part which imparts motion, and on the other hand, a part which receives it from the former; it is the governing principle that moves the leg, as it would any other part. Likewise, if in the universe exists but a single principle which “acts and reacts,” if things derive from each other by a series of causes each of which refers to the preceding one, it will no longer be possible to say truly that all things arise through causes, for their totality will constitute but a single being. In that case, we are no longer ourselves; actions are no longer ours; it is no longer we who reason; it is a foreign principle which reasons, wills, and acts in us, just as it is not our feet that walk, but we who walk by the agency of our feet. On the contrary, common sense admits that every person lives, thinks, and acts by his own individual, proper life, thought and action; to each must be left the responsibility of his actions, good or evil, and not attribute shameful deeds to the universal cause.


5. Others, again, insist that this is not the state of affairs. Their disposition depends on the circular movement of the heaven which governs everything, on the course of the stars, of their mutual relative position at the time of their rising, of their setting, of their zenith, or of their conjunction. Indeed, such are the signs on which are founded prognostications and predictions of what is to happen, not only to the universe, but also to each individual, both as to his fortunes and his thought. It is noticed that the other animals and vegetables increase or decrease according to the kind of sympathy existing between them and the stars, that all other things experience their influence, that various regions of the earth differ according to their adjustment with the stars, and especially the sun; that from the nature of these regions depend not only the character of the plants and animals, but also human forms, size, color, affections, passions, tastes, and customs. In this system, therefore, the course of the stars is the absolute cause of everything.


To this we answer that our astrologer attributes indirectly to the stars all our characteristics: will, passions, vices and appetites; he allows us no rôle other than to turn like mills, instead of responsibility, as befits men, producing actions that suit our nature. On the contrary, we should be left in possession of what belongs to us by the observation that the universe limits itself to exercising some influence on what we possess already thanks to ourselves, and which is really characteristic of us. Moreover, one should distinguish the deeds in which we are “active,” from those in which we are necessarily “passive,” and not deduce everything from the stars. Nobody, indeed, doubts that the differences of place and climate exert an influence over us, imparting to us, for instance, a cool or warm-hearted disposition. Heredity also should be considered; for children usually resemble their parents by their features, form, and some affections of the irrational soul. Nevertheless, even though they resemble them by their facial features, because they are born in the same place, they may differ in habits and thoughts, because these things depend on an entirely different principle. In addition, we can adduce to the support of this truth the resistance which the soul offers to the temperament and to the appetites. As to the claim that the stars are the causes of everything, because one can predict what is to happen to each man from a consideration of their positions, it would be just as reasonable to assert that the birds and the other beings which the augurs consult as omens produce the events of which they are the signs.


This leads us to consider, more in detail, what sort of facts may be predicted according to the inspection of the positions occupied by the stars presiding over the birth of a man. They who, from the assertion that the stars indicate a man’s future, draw the consequence that the stars produce them, are in error. In some person’s horoscope which indicates birth from noble parents, on either maternal or paternal side, this nobility of birth cannot be attributed to the stars, as this nobility subsisted already in the parents before the stars had taken the position according to which the horoscope is cast. Besides, astrologers pretend they can discover the parent’s fortune from the birth of their children, and from the condition of the parents the disposition and fate of the unborn offspring. From a child’s horoscope, they announce his brother’s death; and from a woman’s horoscope, the fortunes of her husband, and conversely. It is unreasonable to refer to the stars things which evidently are necessary consequences of parental conditions. We then reach a dilemma: the cause lies either in these antecedent conditions, or in the stars. The beauty and ugliness of children, when they resemble their parents, must evidently be derived from them, and not from the course of the stars. Moreover, it is probable that at any one moment are born a crowd of human and animal young; now, inasmuch as they are born under the same star, they all ought to have the same nature. How does it then happen that, in the same positions, stars produce men and other beings simultaneously (as Cicero asks)?


6. Each being derives his character from his nature. One being is a horse because he is born from a mare, while another is human, because born from a human mother; and more: he is that particular horse, and that particular man because he is born from such and such a horse, or woman. Doubtless, the course of the stars may modify the result, but the greatest part of the influence must be allowed to heredity.


The stars act on the body only in a physical way, and thus impart to them heat, cold, and the variety of temperament which results therefrom. But how could they endow the man with habits, tastes, and inclinations which do not seem to depend on the temperament, such as the avocation of a surveyor, a grammarian, a gambler, or an inventor?


Besides, nobody would admit that perversity could come from beings who are divinities. How could one believe that they are the authors of the evils attributed to them, and that they themselves become evil because they set or pass under the earth, as if they could possibly be affected by the fact that, in regard to us, they seem to set; as if they did not continue to wander around the heavenly sphere, and remained in the same relation to the earth? Besides it is incredible that because a star is in such or such a position in respect of another star, it becomes better or worse, and that it affects us with goodness when it is well disposed, and evil in the contrary case.


We grant that by their movement the stars co-operate in the conservation of the universe, and that they simultaneously play in it another part. They serve as letters for those skilled in deciphering this kind of writing; and who, by the observation of the figures formed by the stars, read into them future events according to the laws of analogy, as for instance, if one presaged high deeds from seeing a bird fly high.


7. There remains to be considered the (Stoic) doctrine which, concatenating and interrelating all things among each other, establishes “a single cause which produces everything through seminal reasons.” This doctrine reattaches itself to (Heraclitus’s) which deduces from the action of the universal Soul the constitution and the movements of the individuals as well as those of the universe.


In this case, even if we possessed the power of doing something by ourselves, we would not be any the less than the remainder of the universe subjected to necessity, because Fate, containing the whole series of causes, necessarily determines each event. Now since Fate includes all causes, there is nothing which could hinder the occurrence of that event, or alter it. If then everything obeys the impulsion of a single principle, nothing is left to us but to follow it. Indeed, in this case, the fancies of our imagination would result from anterior facts, and would in turn determine our appetites; our liberty would then have become a mere word; nor would we gain any advantage from obeying our appetites, since our appetites themselves will be determined by anterior facts. We would have no more liberty than the other animals, than children, or the insane, who run hither and yon, driven by blind appetites; for they also obey their appetites, as fire would do, and as all the things which fatally follow the dispositions of their nature. These objections will be decisive for those capable of apprehending them; and in the search for other causes of our appetites they will not content themselves with the principles which we have examined.


8. What other cause, besides the preceding, will we have to invoke so as to let nothing occur without a cause, to maintain order and interdependence of things in the world, and in order to preserve the possibility of predictions and omens without destroying our personality?

We shall have to introduce among the number of beings another principle, namely: the soul; and not only the World-soul, but even the individual soul of every person. In the universal concatenation of causes and effects, this soul is a principle of no little importance, because, instead of, like all other things, being born of a “seminal reason,” it constitutes a “primary cause.” Outside of a body, she remains absolute mistress of herself, free and independent of the cause which administers the world. As soon as she has descended into a body, she is no longer so independent, for she then forms part of the order to which all things are subjected. Now, inasmuch as the accidents of fortune, that is to say, the surrounding circumstances, determine many events, the soul alternately yields to the influence of external circumstances, and then again she dominates them, and does what she pleases. This she does more or less, according as she is good or evil. When she yields to the corporeal temperament, she is necessarily subjected to desire or anger, discouraged in poverty, or proud in prosperity, as well as tyrannical in the exercise of power. But she can resist all these evil tendencies if her disposition is good; she modifies her surroundings more than she is affected by them; some things she changes, others she tolerates without herself incurring guilt.


9. All things therefore, which result either from a choice by the soul, or from exterior circumstances, are “necessary,” or determined by a cause. Could anything, indeed, be found outside of these causes? If we gather into one glance all the causes we admit, we find the principles that produce everything, provided we count, amidst external causes, the influence exercised by the course of the stars. When a soul makes a decision, and carries it out because she is impelled thereto by external things, and yields to a blind impulse, we should not consider her determination and action to be free. The soul is not free when, perverting herself, she does not make decisions which direct her in the straight path. On the contrary, when she follows her own guide, pure and impassible reason, her determination is really voluntary, free and independent, and the deed she performs is really her own work, and not the consequence of an exterior impulse; she derives it from her inner power, her pure being, from the primary and sovereign principle which directs her, being deceived by no ignorance, nor vanquished by the power of appetites; for when the appetites invade the soul, and subdue her, they drag her with them by their violence, and she is rather “passive” than “active” in what she does.


10. The conclusion of our discussion is that while everything is indicated and produced by causes, these are of two kinds: First the human soul, and then only exterior circumstances. When the soul acts “conformably to right reason” she acts freely. Otherwise, she is tangled up in her deeds, and she is rather “passive” than “active.” Therefore, whenever she lacks prudence, the exterior circumstances are the causes of her actions; one then has good reason to say that she obeys Fate, especially if Fate is here considered as an exterior cause. On the contrary, virtuous actions are derived from ourselves; for, when we are independent, it is natural for us to produce them. Virtuous men act, and do good freely. Others do good only in breathing-spells left them in between by their passions. If, during these intervals, they practice the precepts of wisdom, it is not because they receive them from some other being, it is merely because their passions do not hinder them from listening to the voice of reason.

As the first book seemed Platonic, and the second Numenian, so this third one seems called forth by the practical opposition of astrologers or Gnostics. Later in life, his thirty-third book, ii. 9, was to take up again this polemic in more extended form. This chronologic arrangement of Plotinus’s first three books reveals his three chief sources of interest—devotion to Plato, reliance on Numenius, and opposition to the Gnostics and astrologers.

Ennead 3.2. Of Providence.


1. When Epicurus derives the existence and constitution of the universe from automatism and chance, he commits an absurdity, and stultifies himself. That is self-evident, though the matter have elsewhere been thoroughly demonstrated. But (if the world do not owe its origin to chance) we will be compelled to furnish an adequate reason for the existence and creation of all these beings. This (teleological) question deserves the most careful consideration. Things that seem evil do indeed exist, and they do suggest doubts about universal Providence; so that some (like Epicurus) insist there is no providence, while others (like the Gnostics), hold that the demiurgic creator is evil. The subject, therefore, demands thorough investigation of its first principles.


Let us leave aside this individual providence, which consists in deliberating before an action, and in examining whether we should or should not do something, or whether we should give or not give it. We shall also assume the existence of the universal Providence, and from this principle we shall deduce the consequences.


We would acknowledge the existence of a particular Providence, such as we mentioned above, if we thought that the world had had a beginning of existence, and had not existed since all eternity. By this particular Providence we mean a recognition, in the divinity, of a kind of prevision and reasoning (similar to the reasoning and prevision of the artist who, before carrying out a work, deliberates on each of the parts that compose it). We would suppose that this prevision and reasoning were necessary to determine how the universe could have been made, and on what conditions it should have been the best possible. But as we hold that the world’s existence had no beginning, and that it has existed since all time, we can, in harmony with reason and our own views, affirm that universal Providence consists in this that the universe is conformed to Intelligence, and that Intelligence is prior to the universe, not indeed in time—for the existence of the Intelligence did not temporarily precede that of the universe—but (in the order of things), because, by its nature, Intelligence precedes the world that proceeds from it, of which it is the cause, type and model, and cause of unchanged perpetual persistence.


This is how Intelligence continues to make the world subsist. Pure Intelligence and Being in itself constitute the genuine (intelligible) World that is prior to everything, which has no extension, which is weakened by no division, which has no imperfection, even in its parts, for none of its parts are separated from its totality. This world is the universal Life and Intelligence. Its unity is both living and intelligent. In it each part reproduces the whole, its totality consists of a perfect harmony, because nothing within it is separate, independent, or isolated from anything else. Consequently, even if there were mutual opposition, there would be no struggle. Being everywhere one and perfect, the intelligible World is permanent and immutable, for it contains no internal reaction of one opposite on another. How could such a reaction take place in this world, since nothing is lacking in it? Why should Reason produce another Reason within it, and Intelligence produce another Intelligence merely because it was capable of doing so? If so, it would not, before having produced, have been in a perfect condition; it would produce and enter in motion because it contained something inferior. But blissful beings are satisfied to remain within themselves, persisting within their essence. A multiple action compromises him who acts by forcing him to issue from himself. The intelligible World is so blissful that even while doing nothing it accomplishes great things, and while remaining within itself it produces important operations.


2. The sense-world draws its existence from that intelligible World. The sense-world, however, is not really unitary; it is indeed multiple, and divided into a plurality of parts which are separated from each other, and are mutually foreign. Not love reigns there, but hate, produced by the separation of things which their state of imperfection renders mutually inimical. None of its parts suffices to itself. Preserved by something else, it is none the less an enemy of the preserving Power. The sense-world has been created, not because the divinity reflected on the necessity of creating, but because (in the nature of things) it was unavoidable that there be a nature inferior to the intelligible World, which, being perfect, could not have been the last degree of existence. It occupied the first rank, it had great power, that was universal and capable of creating without deliberation. If it had had to deliberate, it would not, by itself, have expressed the power of creation. It would not have possessed it essentially. It would have resembled an artisan, who, himself, does not have the power of creating, but who acquires it by learning how to work. By giving something of itself to matter, Intelligence produced everything without issuing from its rest or quietness. That which it gives is Reason, because reason is the emanation of Intelligence, an emanation that is as durable as the very existence of Intelligence. In a seminal reason all the parts exist in an united condition, without any of them struggling with another, without disagreement or hindrance. This Reason then causes something of itself to pass into the corporeal mass, where the parts are separated from each other, and hinder each other, and destroy each other. Likewise, from this unitary Intelligence, and from the Reason that proceeds thence, issues this universe whose parts are separate and distinct from each other, some of the parts being friendly and allied, while some are separate and inimical. They, therefore, destroy each other, either voluntarily or involuntarily, and through this destruction their generation is mutually operated. In such a way did the divinity arrange their actions and experiences that all concur in the formation of a single harmony, in which each utters its individual note because, in the whole, the Reason that dominates them produces order and harmony. The sense-world does not enjoy the perfection of Intelligence and Reason: it only participates therein. Consequently, the sense-world needed harmony, because it was formed by the concurrence of Intelligence and necessity. Necessity drives the sense-world to evil, and to what is irrational, because necessity itself is irrational; but Intelligence dominates necessity. The intelligible World is pure reason; none other could be such. The world, which is born of it, had to be inferior to it, and be neither pure reason, nor mere matter; for order would have been impossible in unmingled matter. The sense-world, therefore, is a mixture of matter and Reason; those are the elements of which it is composed. The principle from which this mixture proceeds, and which presides over the mixture, is the Soul. Neither must we imagine that this presiding over the mixture constitutes an effort for the Soul; for she easily administers the universe, by her presence.


3. For not being beautiful this world should not be blamed; neither for not being the best of corporeal worlds; nor should the Cause, from which it derives its existence, be accused. To begin with, this world exists necessarily. It is not the work of a reflecting determination. It exists because a superior Being naturally begets it in His own likeness. Even if its creation were the result of reflective determination, it could not shame its author; for the divinity made the universe beautiful, complete and harmonious. Between the greater and lesser parts He introduced a fortunate accord. A person who would blame the totality of the world from consideration of its parts is therefore unjust. He should examine the parts in their relation to the totality, and see whether they be in accord and in harmony with it. Then the study of the whole should continue down to that of the least details. Otherwise criticism does not apply to the world as a whole, but only to some of its parts. For instance, we well know how admirable, as a whole, is man; yet we grant that there would be justification for criticism of a separate hair, or toe, or some of the vilest animals, or Thersites, as a specimen of humanity.


Since the work under consideration is the entire world, we would, were our intelligence attentively to listen to its voice, hear it exclaim as follows: “It is a divinity who has made Me, and from the divinity’s hands I issued complete, including all animated beings, entire and self-sufficient, standing in need of nothing, since everything is contained within Me; plants, animals, the whole of Nature, the multitude of the divinities, the troupe of guardians, excellent souls, and the men who are happy because of virtue. This refers not only to the earth, which is rich in plants and animals of all kinds; the power of the Soul extends also to the sea. Nor are the air and entire heaven inanimate. They are the seat of all the excellent Souls, which communicate life to the stars, and which preside over the circular revolution of the heaven, a revolution that is eternal and full of harmony, which imitates the movement of Intelligence by the eternal and regular movement of the stars around one and the same center, because heaven has no need to seek anything outside of itself. All the beings I contain aspire to the Good; all achieve Him, each according to its potentiality. Indeed, from the Good depends the entire heaven, my whole Soul, the divinities that inhabit my various parts, all the animals, all the plants, and all my apparently inanimate beings. In this aggregation of beings some seem to participate only in existence, others in life, others in sensation, others in intelligence, while still others seem to participate in all the powers of life at one time; for we must not expect equal faculties for unequal things, as for instance sight for the fingers, as it is suitable to the eye; while the finger needs something else; it needs its own form, and has to fulfill its function.”


4. We should not be surprised at water extinguishing fire, or at fire destroying some other element. Even this element was introduced to existence by some other element, and it is not surprising that it should be destroyed, since it did not produce itself, and was introduced to existence only by the destruction of some other element (as thought Heraclitus and the Stoics). Besides, the extinguished fire is replaced by another active fire. In the incorporeal heaven, everything is permanent; in the visible heaven, the totality, as well as the more important and the most essential parts, are eternal. The souls, on passing through different bodies, (by virtue of their disposition), themselves change on assuming some particular form; but, when they can do so, they stand outside of generation, remaining united to the universal Soul. The bodies are alive by their form, and by the whole that each of them constitutes (by its union with a soul), since they are animals, and since they nourish themselves; for in the sense-world life is mobile, but in the intelligible world it is immobile. Immobility necessarily begat movement, self-contained life was compelled to produce other life, and calm being naturally exhaled vibrating spirit.


Mutual struggle and destruction among animals is necessary, because they are not born immortal. Their origin is due to Reason’s embracing all of matter, and because this Reason possessed within itself all the things that subsist in the intelligible World. From what other source would they have arisen?


The mutual wrongs of human beings may however very easily all be caused by the desire of the Good (as had been thought by Democritus). But, having strayed because of their inability to reach Him, they turned against each other. They are punished for it by the degradation these evil actions introduced within their souls, and, after death, they are driven into a lower place, for none can escape the Order established by the Law of the universe (or, the law of Adrastea). Order does not, as some would think, exist because of disorder, nor law on account of lawlessness; in general, it is not the better that exists on account of the worse. On the contrary, disorder exists only on account of order, lawlessness on account of law, irrationality on account of reason, because order, law and reason, such as they are here below, are only imitations (or, borrowings). It is not that the better produced the worse, but that the things which need participation in the better are hindered therefrom, either by their nature, by accident, or by some other obstacle (as Chrysippus thought that evils happen by consequence or concomitance). Indeed, that which succeeds only in acquiring a borrowed order, may easily fail to achieve it, either because of some fault inherent in its own nature, or by some foreign obstacle. Things hinder each other unintentionally, by following different goals. Animals whose actions are free incline sometimes towards good, sometimes towards evil (as the two horses in Plato’s Phædrus). Doubtless, they do not begin by inclining towards evil; but as soon as there is the least deviation at the origin, the further the advance in the wrong road, the greater and more serious does the divergence become. Besides, the soul is united to a body, and from this union necessarily arises appetite. When something impresses us at first sight, or unexpectedly, and if we do not immediately repress the motion which is produced within us, we allow ourselves to be carried away by the object towards which our inclination drew us. But the punishment follows the fault, and it is not unjust that the soul that has contracted some particular nature should undergo the consequences of her disposition (by passing into a body which conforms thereto). Happiness need not be expected for those who have done nothing to deserve it. The good alone obtain it; and that is why the divinities enjoy it.


5. If then, even here below, souls enjoy the faculty of arriving at happiness, we should not accuse the constitution of the universe because some souls are not happy; the fault rather lies with their weakness, which hinders them from struggling courageously enough in the career where prizes are offered to virtue. Why indeed should we be astonished that the spirits which have not made themselves divine should not enjoy divine life? Poverty and diseases are of no importance to the good, and they are useful to the evil (as thought Theognis). Besides, we are necessarily subject to diseases, because we have a body. Then all these accidents are not useless for the order and existence of the universe. Indeed, when a being is dissolved into its elements, the Reason of the universe uses it to beget other beings, for the universal Reason embraces everything within its sphere of activity. Thus when the body is disorganized, and the soul is softened by her passions, then the body, overcome by sickness, and the soul, overcome by vice, are introduced into another series and order. There are things, like poverty and sickness, which benefit the persons who undergo them. Even vice contributes to the perfection of the universe, because it furnishes opportunity for the exercise of the divine justice. It serves other purposes also; for instance, it increases the vigilance of souls, and excites the mind and intelligence to avoid the paths of perdition; it also emphasizes the value of virtue by contrast with the evils that overtake the wicked. Of course, such utilities are not the cause of the existence of evils; we only mean that, since evils exist, the divinity made use of them to accomplish His purposes. It would be the characteristic of a great power to make even evils promote the fulfillment of its purposes, to cause formless things to assist in the production of forms. In short, we assert that evil is only an omission or failure of good. Now a coming short of good must necessarily exist in the beings here below, because in them good is mingled with other things; for this thing to which the good is allied differs from the good, and thus produces the lack of good. That is why “it is impossible for evil to be destroyed”: because things are successively inferior, relatively to the nature of the absolute Good; and because, being different from the Good from which they derive their existence, they have become what they are by growing more distant from their principle.


6. It is constantly objected that fortune maltreats the good, and favors the evil in opposition to the agreement that ought to exist between virtue and happiness. The true answer to this is that no harm can happen to the righteous man, and no good to the vicious man. Other objectors ask why one man is exposed to what is contrary to nature, while the other obtains what conforms thereto. How can distributive justice be said to obtain in this world? If, however, the obtaining of what conforms to nature do not increase the happiness of the virtuous man, and if being exposed to what is contrary to nature do not diminish the wickedness of the vicious man, of what importance (as thought Plato), are either of these conditions? Neither will it matter if the vicious man be handsome, or the virtuous man ugly.


Further objections assert that propriety, order and justice demand the contrary of the existing state of affairs in the world, and that we could expect no less from a Providence that was wise. Even if it were a matter of moment to virtue or vice, it is unsuitable that the wicked should be the masters, and chiefs of state, and that the good should be slaves; for a bad prince commits the worst crimes. Moreover, the wicked conquer in battles, and force their prisoners to undergo the extremities of torments. How could such facts occur if indeed a divine Providence be in control? Although indeed in the production of some work (of art), it be especially the totality that claims attention, nevertheless, the parts must also obtain their due, especially when they are animated, living and reasonable; it is just that divine Providence should extend to everything, especially inasmuch as its duty is precisely to neglect nothing. In view of these objections we shall be forced to demonstrate that really everything here below is good, if we continue to insist that the sense-world depends on supreme Intelligence, and that its power penetrates everywhere.


7. To begin with, we must remark that to show that all is good in the things mingled with matter (and therefore of sense), we must not expect to find in them the whole perfection of the World which is not soiled by matter, and is intelligible; nor should we expect to find in that which holds the second rank characteristics of that which is of the first. Since the world has a body, we must grant that this body will have influence on the totality, and expect no more than that Reason will give it that which this mixed nature was capable of receiving. For instance, if we were to contemplate the most beautiful man here below, we would be wrong in believing that he was identical with the intelligible Man, and inasmuch as he was made of flesh, muscles and bones, we would have to be satisfied with his having received from his creator all the perfection that could be communicated to him to embellish these bones, muscles and flesh, and to make the (“seminal) reason” in him predominate over the matter within him.


Granting these premises, we may start out on an explanation of the above mentioned difficulties. For in the world we will find remarkable traces of the Providence and divine Power from which it proceeds. Let us take first, the actions of souls who do evil voluntarily; the actions of the wicked who, for instance, harm virtuous men, or other men equally evil. Providence need not be held responsible for the wickedness of these souls. The cause should be sought in the voluntary determinations of those souls themselves. For we have proved that the souls have characteristic motions, and that while here below they are not pure, but rather are animals (as would naturally be the case with souls united to bodies). Now, it is not surprising that, finding themselves in such a condition, they would live conformably to that condition. Indeed, it is not the formation of the world that made them descend here below. Even before the world existed, they were already disposed to form part of it, to busy themselves with it, to infuse it with life, to administer it, and in it to exert their power in a characteristic manner, either by presiding over its (issues), and by communicating to it something of their power, or by descending into it, or by acting in respect to the world each in its individual manner. The latter question, however, does not refer to the subject we are now considering; here it will be sufficient to show that, however these circumstances occur, Providence is not to be blamed.


But how shall we explain the difference that is observed between the lot of the good and the evil? How can it occur that the former are poor, while others are rich, and possess more than necessary to satisfy their needs, being even powerful, and governing cities and nations? (The Gnostics and Manicheans) think that the sphere of activity of Providence does not extend down to the earth. No! For all of the rest (of this world) conforms to (universal) Reason, inasmuch as animals and plants participate in Reason, Life and Soul. (The Gnostic) will answer that if Providence do extend to this earth, it does not predominate therein. As the world is but a single organism, to advance such an objection is the part of somebody who would assert that the head and face of man were produced by Nature, and that reason dominated therein, while the other members were formed by other causes, such as chance or necessity, and that they were evil either on this account, or because of the importance of Nature. Wisdom and piety, however, would forbid the admission that here below not everything was well, blaming the operation of Providence.


8. It remains for us to explain how sense-objects are good and participate in the (cosmic) Order; or at least, that they are not evil. In every animal, the higher parts, such as the face and head, are the most beautiful, and are not equalled by the middle or lower parts. Now men occupy the middle and lower region of the universe. In the higher region we find the heaven containing the divinities; it is they that fill the greater part of the world, with the vast sphere where they reside. The earth occupies the center and seems to be one of the stars. We are surprised at seeing injustice reigning here below chiefly because man is regarded as the most venerable and wisest being in the universe. Nevertheless, this being that is so wise occupies but the middle place between divinities and animals, at different times inclining towards the former or the latter. Some men resemble the divinities, and others resemble animals; but the greater part continue midway between them.


It is those men who occupy this middle place who are forced to undergo the rapine and violence of depraved men, who resemble wild beasts. Though the former are better than those whose violence they suffer, they are, nevertheless, dominated by them because of inferiority in other respects, lacking courage, or preparedness. It would be no more than a laughing matter if children who had strengthened their bodies by exercise, while leaving their souls inviolate in ignorance, should in physical struggle conquer those of their companions, who had exercised neither body nor soul; if they stole their food or soft clothing. No legislator could hinder the vanquished from bearing the punishment of their cowardliness and effeminacy, if, neglecting the gymnastic exercises which had been taught them, they did not, by their inertia, effeminacy and laziness, fear becoming fattened sheep fit to be the prey of wolves? They who commit this rapine and violence are punished therefor first because they thereby become wolves and noxious beasts, and later because (in this or some subsequent existence) they necessarily undergo the consequences of their evil actions (as thought Plato). For men who here below have been evil do not die entirely (when their soul is separated from their bodies). Now in the things that are regulated by Nature and Reason, that which follows is always the result of that which precedes; evil begets evil, just as good begets good. But the arena of life differs from a gymnasium, where the struggles are only games. Therefore, the above-mentioned children which we divided into two classes, after having grown up in ignorance, must prepare to fight, and take up arms, an display more energy than in the exercises of the gymnasium. As some, however, are well armed, while the others are not, the first must inevitably triumph. The divinity must not fight for the cowardly; for the (cosmic) law decrees that in war life is saved by valor, and not by prayers. Nor is it by prayers that the fruits of the earth are obtained; they are produced only by labor. Nor can one have good health without taking care of it. If the evil cultivate the earth better, we should not complain of their reaping a better harvest. Besides, in the ordinary conduct of life, it is ridiculous to listen only to one’s own caprice, doing nothing that is prescribed by the divinities, limiting oneself exclusively to demanding one’s conservation, without carrying out any of the actions on which (the divinities) willed that our preservation should depend.


Indeed it would be better to be dead than to live thus in contradiction with the laws that rule the universe. If, when men are in opposition to these laws, divine Providence preserved peace in the midst of all follies and vices, it would deserve the charge of negligence in allowing the prevalence of evil. The evil rule only because of the cowardice of those who obey them; this is juster than if it were otherwise.


9. Nor should the sphere of Providence be extended to the point of suppressing our own action. For if Providence did everything, and Providence alone existed, it would thereby be annihilated. To what, indeed, would it apply? There would be nothing but divinity! It is indeed incontestable that divinity exists, and that its sphere extends over other beings—but divinity does not suppress the latter. For instance, divinity approaches man, and preserves in him what constitutes humanity; that is, divinity makes him live in conformity to the law of Providence, and makes him fulfill the commandments of that law. Now, this law decrees that the life of men who have become virtuous should be good both here below and after their death; and that the evil should meet an opposite fate. It would be unreasonable to expect the existence of men who forget themselves to come and save the evil, even if the latter addressed prayers to the divinity. Neither should we expect the divinities to renounce their blissful existence to come and administer our affairs; nor that the virtuous men, whose life is holy and superior to human conditions, should be willing to govern the wicked. The latter never busy themselves with promoting the good to the governing of other men, and themselves to be good (as thought Plato). They are even jealous of the man who is good by himself; there would indeed be more good people if virtuous men were chosen as chiefs.


Man is therefore not the best being in the universe; according to his choice he occupies an intermediate rank. In the place he occupies, however, he is not abandoned by Providence, which ever leads him back to divine things by the numerous means it possesses to cause the triumph of virtue. That is the reason why men have never lost rationality, and why, to some degree, they always participate in wisdom, intelligence, art, and the justice that regulates their mutual relations. Even when one wrongs another, he is still given credit for acting in justice to himself, and he is treated according to his deserts. Besides, man, as a creature, is handsome, as handsome as possible, and, by the part he plays in the universe, he is superior to all the animals that dwell here below.


No one in his senses would complain of the existence of animals inferior to man, if, besides, they contribute towards the embellishment of the universe. Would it not be ridiculous to complain that some of them bite men, as if the latter had an imprescriptible right to complete security? The existence of these animals is necessary; it procures us advantages both evident and still unknown, but which will be revealed in the course of time. Thus there is nothing useless in animals, either in respect to themselves, or to man. It is, besides, ridiculous to complain because many animals are wild, when there are even men who are such; what should surprise us most is that many animals are not submissive to man, and defend themselves against him.


10. But if men be evil only in spite of themselves, and involuntarily, it would be impossible to say that those who commit injustices, and those who suffer them are responsible (the former for their ferocity, and the latter for their cowardice. To this we answer that if the wickedness of the former (as well as the cowardice of the latter) be, necessarily, produced by the course of the stars, or by the action of a principle of which it is only the effect, then it is explained by physical reasons. But if it be the very Reason of the universe that produces such things, how does it not thereby commit an injustice?


Unjust actions are involuntary only in this sense that one does not have the will to commit a fault; but this circumstance does not hinder the spontaneity of the action. However, when one acts spontaneously, one is responsible for the fault; one would avoid responsibility for the fault only if one were not the author of the action. To say that the wicked are such necessarily, does not mean that they undergo an external constraint, but that their character is constituted by wickedness. The influence of the course of the stars does not destroy our liberty, for, if every action in us were determined by the exterior influence of such agents, everything would go on as these agents desired it; consequently, men would not commit any actions contrary to the will of these agents. If the divinities alone were the authors of all our actions, there would be no impious persons; therefore, impiety is due to men. It is true that, once the cause is given, the effects will follow, if only the whole series of causes be given. But man himself is one of these causes; he therefore does good by his own nature, and he is a free cause.


11. Is it true that all things are produced by necessity, and by the natural concatenation of causes and effects, and that, thus, they are as good as possible? No! It is the Reason which, governing the world, produces all things (in this sense that it contains all the “seminal reasons”), and which decrees that they shall be what they are. It is Reason that, in conformity with its rational nature, produces what are called evils, because it does not wish everything to be equally good. An artist would not cover the body of a pictured animal with eyes. Likewise, Reason did not limit itself to the creation of divinities; it produced beneath them guardians, then men, then animals, not by envy (as Plato remarks); but because its rational essence contains an intellectual variety (that is, contains the “seminal reasons” of all different beings). We resemble such men as know little of painting, and who would blame an artist for having put shadows in his picture; nevertheless, he has only properly disposed the contrasts of light. Likewise, well-regulated states are not composed of equal orders. Further, one would not condemn a tragedy, because it presents personages other than heroes, such as slaves or peasants who speak incorrectly. To cut out these inferior personages, and all the parts in which they appear, would be to injure the beauty of the composition.


12. Since it is the Reason (of the world) which produced all things by an alliance with matter, and by preserving its peculiar nature, which is to be composed of different parts, and to be determined by the principle from which it proceeds (that is, by Intelligence), the work produced by Reason under these conditions could not be improved in beauty. Indeed, the Reason (of the world) could not be composed of homogeneous and similar parts; it must, therefore, not be accused, because it is all things, and because all its parts differ from others. If it had introduced into the world things which it had not previously contained, as for instance, souls, and had forced them to enter into the order of the world without considering their nature, and if it had made many become degraded, Reason would certainly be to blame. Therefore, we must acknowledge that the souls are parts of Reason, and that Reason harmonizes them with the world without causing their degradation, assigning to each that station which is suitable to her.


13. There is a further consideration that should not be overlooked, namely: that if you desire to discover the exercise of the distributive Justice of the divinity, it is not sufficient to examine only the present; the past and future must also be considered. Those who, in a former life, were slave-owners, if they abused their power, will be enslaved; and this change would be useful to them. It impoverishes those who have badly used their wealth; for poverty is of service even to virtuous people. Likewise, those who kill will in their turn be killed; he who commits homicide acts unjustly, but he who is its victim suffers justly. Thus arises a harmony between the disposition of the man who is maltreated, and the disposition of him who maltreats him as he deserved. It is not by chance that a man becomes a slave, is made prisoner, or is dishonored. He (must himself) have committed the violence which he in turn undergoes. He who kills his mother will be killed by his son; he who has violated a woman will in turn become a woman in order to become the victim of a rape. Hence, the divine Word called Adrastea. The orderly system here mentioned really is “unescapeable,” truly a justice and an admirable wisdom. From the things that we see in the universe we must conclude that the order which reigns in it is eternal, that it penetrates everywhere, even in the smallest thing; and that it reveals an admirable art not only in the divine things, but also in those that might be supposed to be beneath the notice of Providence, on account of their minuteness. Consequently, there is an admirable variety of art in the vilest animal. It extends even into plants, whose fruits and leaves are so distinguished by the beauty of form, whose flowers bloom with so much grace, which grow so easily, and which offer so much variety. These things were not produced once for all; they are continually produced with variety, because the stars in their courses do not always exert the same influence on things here below. What is transformed is not transformed and metamorphosed by chance, but according to the laws of beauty, and the rules of suitability observed by divine powers. Every divine Power acts according to its nature, that is, in conformity with its essence. Now its essence is to develop justice and beauty in its actualizations; for if justice and beauty did not exist here, they could not exist elsewhere.


14. The order of the universe conforms to divine Intelligence without implying that on that account its author needed to go through the process of reasoning. Nevertheless, this order is so perfect that he who best knows how to reason would be astonished to see that even with reasoning one could not discover a plan wiser than that discovered as realized in particular natures, and that this plan better conforms to the laws of Intelligence than any that could result from reasoning. It can never, therefore, be proper to find fault with the Reason that produces all things because of any (alleged imperfections) of any natural object, nor to claim, for the beings whose existence has begun, the perfection of the beings whose existence had no beginning, and which are eternal, both in the intelligible World, and in this sense-world. That would amount to wishing that every being should possess more good than it can carry, and to consider as insufficient the form it received. It would, for instance, amount to complaining, that man does not bear horns, and to fail to notice that, if Reason had to spread abroad everywhere, it was still necessary for something great to contain something less, that in everything there should be parts, and that these could not equal the whole without ceasing to be parts. In the intelligible World every thing is all; but here below each thing is not all things. The individual man does not have the same properties as the universal Man. For if the individual beings had something which was not individual, then they would be universal. We should not expect an individual being as such to possess the highest perfection; for then it would no longer be an individual being. Doubtless, the beauty of the part is not incompatible with that of the whole; for the more beautiful a part is, the more does it embellish the whole. Now the part becomes more beautiful on becoming similar to the whole, or imitating its essence, and in conforming to its order. Thus a ray (of the supreme Intelligence) descends here below upon man, and shines in him like a star in the divine sky. To imagine the universe, one should imagine a colossal statue that were perfectly beautiful, animated or formed by the art of Vulcan, whose ears, face and breast would be adorned with shimmering stars disposed with marvelous skill.


15. The above considerations suffice for things studied each in itself. The mutual relation, however, between things already begotten, and those that are still being begotten from time to time, deserves to attract attention, and may give rise to some objections, such as the following: How does it happen that animals devour each other, that men attack each other mutually, and that they are always in ceaseless internecine warfare? How could the reason (of the universe) have constituted such a state of affairs, while still claiming that all is for the best?


It does not suffice here to answer: “Everything is for the best possible. Matter is the cause that things are in a state of inferiority; evils could not be destroyed.” It is true enough, indeed, that things had to be what they are, for they are good. It is not matter which has come to dominate the universe; it has been introduced in it so that the universe might be what it is, or rather, it is caused by reason (?). The principle of things is, therefore, the Logos, or Reason (of the universe), which is everything. By it were things begotten, by it were they co-ordinated in generation.


What then (will it be objected) is the necessity of this natural internecine warfare of animals, and also of men? First, animals have to devour each other in order to renew themselves; they could not, indeed, last eternally, even if they were not killed. Is there any reason to complain because, being already condemned to death, as they are, they should find an end which is useful to other beings? What objection can there be to their mutually devouring each other, in order to be reborn under other forms? It is as if on the stage an actor who is thought to be killed, goes to change his clothing, and returns under another mask. Is it objected that he was not really dead? Yes indeed, but dying is no more than a change of bodies, just as the comedian changes his costume, or if the body were to be entirely despoiled, this is no more than when an actor, at the end of a drama, lays aside his costume, only to take it up again when once more the drama begins. Therefore, there is nothing frightful in the mutual transformation of animals into each other. Is it not better for them to have lived under this condition, than never to have lived at all? Life would then be completely absent from the universe, and life could no longer be communicated to other beings. But as this universe contains a multiple life, it produces and varies everything during the course of its existence; as it were joking with them, it never ceases to beget living beings, remarkable by beauty and by the proportion of their forms. The combats in which mortal men continually fight against each other, with a regularity strongly reminding of the Pyrrhic dances (as thought Plato), clearly show how all these affairs, that are considered so serious, are only children’s games, and that their death was nothing serious. To die early in wars and battles is to precede by only a very little time the unescapable fate of old age, and it is only an earlier departure for a closer return. We may be comforted for the loss of our possessions during our lifetime by observing that they have belonged to others before us, and that, for those who have deprived us thereof, they form but a very fragile possession, since they, in turn, will be bereft thereof by others; and that, if they be not despoiled of their riches, they will lose still more by keeping them. Murders, massacres, the taking and pillaging of towns should be considered as in the theater we consider changes of scene and of personages, the tears and cries of the actors.


In this world, indeed, just as in the theater, it is not the soul, the interior man, but his shadow, the exterior man, who gives himself up to lamentations and groans, who on this earth moves about so much, and who makes of it the scene of an immense drama with numberless different acts (?) Such is the characteristic of the actions of a man who considers exclusively the things placed at his feet, and outside of him, and who does not know that his tears and serious occupations are any more than games. The really earnest man occupies himself seriously only with really serious affairs, while the frivolous man applies himself to frivolous things. Indeed, frivolous things become serious for him who does not know really serious occupations, and who himself is frivolous. If, indeed, one cannot help being mixed up in this child’s play, it is just as well to know that he has fallen into child’s play where one’s real personality is not in question. If Socrates were to mingle in these games, it would only be his exterior man who would do so. Let us add that tears and groans do not prove that the evils we are complaining of are very real evils; for often children weep and lament over imaginary grievances.


16. If the above considerations be true, what about wickedness, injustice, and sin? For if everything be well, how can there be agents who are unjust, and who sin? If no one be unjust, or sinful, how can unhappy men exist? How can we say that certain things conform to nature, while others are contrary thereto, if everything that is begotten, or that occurs, conforms to nature? Last, would that point of view not do away entirely with impiety towards the divinity, if it be the divinity that makes things such as they are, if the divinity resemble a poet, who would in his drama introduce a character whose business it was to ridicule and criticize the author?


Let us, therefore, more clearly define the Reason (of the universe), and let us demonstrate that it should be what it is. To reach our conclusion more quickly, let us grant the existence of this Reason. This Reason (of the universe) is not pure, absolute Intelligence. Neither is it the pure Soul, but it depends therefrom. It is a ray of light that springs both from Intelligence and from the Soul united to Intelligence. These two principles beget Reason, that is, a rational quiet life. Now all life is an actualization, even that which occupies the lowest rank. But the actualization (which constitutes the life of Reason) is not similar to the actualization of fire. The actualization of the life (peculiar to Reason), even without feeling, is not a blind movement. All things that enjoy the presence of Reason, and which participate therein in any manner soever, immediately receive a rational disposition, that is, a form; for the actualization which constitutes the life (of the Reason) can impart its forms, and for that actualization motion is to form beings. Its movement, like that of a dancer, is, therefore, full of art. A dancer, indeed, gives us the image of that life full of art; it is the art that moves it, because the art itself is its life. All this is said to explain the nature of life, whatever it be.


As reason proceeds from Intelligence and Life, which possesses both fullness and unity, Reason does not possess the unity and fullness of Intelligence and Life. Consequently, Reason does not communicate the totality and universality of its essence to the beings to which it imparts itself. It, therefore, opposes its parts to each other, and creates them defective; whereby, Reason constitutes and begets war and struggle. Thus Reason is the universal unity, because it could not be the absolute unity. Though reason imply struggle, because it consists of parts, it also implies unity and harmony. It resembles the reason of a drama, whose unity contains many diversities. In a drama, however, the harmony of the whole results from its component contraries being co-ordinated in the unity of action, while, in universal Reason, it is from unity that the struggle of contraries arises. That is why we may well compare universal Reason to the harmony formed by contrary sounds, and to examine why the reasons of the beings also contain contraries. In a concert, these reasons produce low and high sounds, and, by virtue of the harmony, that constitutes their essence, they make these divers sounds contribute to unity, that is, to Harmony itself, the supreme Reason of which they are only parts. In the same way we must consider other oppositions in the universe, such as black and white, heat and cold, winged or walking animals, and reasonable and irrational beings. All these things are parts of the single universal Organism. Now if the parts of the universal Organism were often in mutual disagreement, the universal Organism, nevertheless, remains in perfect accord with itself because it is universal, and it is universal by the Reason that inheres in it. The unity of this Reason must therefore be composed of opposite reasons, because their very opposition somehow constitutes its essence. If the Reason (of the world) were not multiple, it would no longer be universal, and would not even exist any longer. Since it exists, Reason must, therefore, contain within itself some difference; and the greatest difference is opposition. Now if Reason contain a difference, and produce different things, the difference that exists in these things is greater than that which exists in Reason. Now difference carried to the highest degree is opposition. Therefore, to be perfect, Reason must from its very essence produce things not only different, but even opposed.


17. If Reason thus from its essence produce opposed things, the things it will produce will be so much the more opposed as they are more separated from each other. The sense-world is less unitary than its Reason, and consequently, it is more manifold, containing more oppositions. Thus, in individuals, the love of life has greater force; selfishness is more powerful in them; and often, by their avidity, they destroy what they love, when they love what is perishable. The love which each individual has for himself, makes him appropriate all he can in his relations with the universe. Thus the good and evil are led to do opposite things by the Art that governs the universe; just as a choric ballet would be directed. One part is good, the other poor; but the whole is good. It might be objected that in this case no evil person will be left. Still, nothing hinders the existence of the evil; only they will not be such as they would be taken by themselves. Besides, this will be a motive of leniency in regard to them, unless Reason should decide that this leniency be not deserved, thereby making it impossible.


Besides, if this world contain both bad and good people, and if the latter play the greater part in the world, there will take place that which is seen in dramas where the poet, at times, imposes his ideas on the actors, and again at others relies on their ingenuity. The obtaining of the first, second or third rank by an actor does not depend on the poet. The poet only assigns to each the part he is capable of filling, and assigns to him a suitable place. Likewise (in the world), each one occupies his assigned place, and the bad man, as well as the good one, has the place that suits him. Each one, according to his nature and character, comes to occupy the place that suits him, and that he had chosen, and then speaks and acts with piety if he be good, and impiously, if he be evil. Before the beginning of the drama, the actors already had their proper characters; they only developed it. In dramas composed by men, it is the poet who assigns their parts to the actors; and the latter are responsible only for the efficiency or inefficiency of their acting; for they have nothing to do but repeat the words of the poet. But in this drama (of life), of which men imitate certain parts when their nature is poetic, it is the soul that is the actor. This actor receives his part from the creator, as stage-actors receive from the poet their masks, garments, their purple robe, or their rags. Thus in the drama of the world it is not from chance that the soul receives her part.


Indeed, the fate of a soul conforms to her character, and, by going through with her part properly, the soul fulfills her part in the drama managed by universal Reason. The soul sings her part, that is, she does that which is in her nature to do. If her voice and features be beautiful, by themselves, they lend charm to the poem, as would be natural. Otherwise they introduce a displeasing element, but which does not alter the nature of the work. The author of the drama reprimands the bad actor as the latter may deserve it, and thus fulfills the part of a good judge. He increases the dignity of the good actor, and, if possible, invites him to play beautiful pieces, while he relegates the bad actor to inferior pieces. Likewise, the soul which takes part in the drama of which the world is the theater, and which has undertaken a part in it, brings with her a disposition to play well or badly. At her arrival she is classed with the other actors, and after having been allotted to all the various gifts of fortune without any regard for her personality or activities, she is later punished or rewarded. Such actors have something beyond usual actors; they appear on a greater scene; the creator of the universe gives them some of his power, and grants them the freedom to choose between a great number of places. The punishments and rewards are so determined that the souls themselves run to meet them, because each soul occupies a place in conformity with her character, and is thus in harmony with the Reason of the universe.


Every individual, therefore, occupies, according to justice, the place he deserves, just as each string of the lyre is fixed to the place assigned to it by the nature of the sounds it is to render. In the universe everything is good and beautiful if every being occupy the place he deserves, if, for instance, he utter discordant sounds when in darkness and Tartarus; for such sounds fit that place. If the universe is to be beautiful, the individual must not behave “like a stone” in it; he must contribute to the unity of the universal harmony by uttering the sound suitable to him (as thought Epictetus). The sound that the individual utters is the life he leads, a life which is inferior in greatness, goodness and power (to that of the universe). The shepherd’s pipe utters several sounds, and the weakest of them, nevertheless, contributes to the total Harmony, because this harmony is composed of unequal sounds whose totality constitutes a perfect harmony. Likewise, universal Reason though one, contains unequal parts. Consequently, the universe contains different places, some better, and some worse, and their inequality corresponds to the inequality of the soul. Indeed, as both places and souls are different, the souls that are different find the places that are unequal, like the unequal parts of the pipe, or any other musical instrument. They inhabit different places, and each utters sounds proper to the place where they are, and to the universe. Thus what is bad for the individual may be good for the totality; what is against nature in the individual agrees with the nature in the whole. A sound that is feeble does not change the harmony of the universe, as—to use another example—one bad citizen does not change the nature of a well-regulated city; for often there is need of such a man in a city; he therefore fits it well.


18. The difference that exists between souls in respect to vice and virtue has several causes; among others, the inequality that exists between souls from the very beginning. This inequality conforms to the essence of universal Reason, of which they are unequal parts, because they differ from each other. We must indeed remember that souls have three ranks (the intellectual, rational, and sense lives), and that the same soul does not always exercise the same faculties. But, to explain our meaning, let us return to our former illustration. Let us imagine actors who utter words not written by the poet; as if the drama were incomplete, they themselves supply what is lacking, and fill omissions made by the poet. They seem less like actors than like parts of the poet, who foresaw what they were to say, so as to reattach the remainder so far as it was in his power. In the universe, indeed, all things that are the consequences and results of bad deeds are produced by reasons, and conform to the universal Reason. Thus, from an illicit union, or from a rape, may be born natural children that may become very distinguished men; likewise, from cities destroyed by perverse individuals, may rise other flourishing cities.


It might indeed be objected that it is absurd to introduce into the world souls some of which do good, and others evil; for when we absolve universal Reason from the responsibility of evil, we are also simultaneously taking from it the merit for the good. What, however, hinders us from considering deeds done by actors as parts of a drama, in the universe as well as on the stage, and thus to derive from universal Reason both the good and the evil that are done here below? For universal Reason exercises its influence on each of the actors with so much the greater force as the drama is more perfect, and as everything depends on it.


But why should we at all impute evil deeds to universal Reason? The souls contained in the universe will not be any more divine for that. They will still remain parts of the universal Reason (and consequently, remain souls): for we shall have to acknowledge that all reasons are souls. Otherwise if the Reason of the universe be a Soul, why should certain “reasons” be souls, and others only (“seminal) reasons”?

Ennead 3.3. Continuation of That on Providence.


1. The question (why some reasons are souls, while others are reasons merely, when at the same time universal Reason is a certain Soul), may be answered as follows. Universal Reason (which proceeds from the universal Soul) embraces both good and bad things, which equally belong to its parts; it does not engender them, but exists with them in its universality. In fact, these “logoses” (or reasons) (or, particular souls), are the acts of the universal Soul; and these reasons being parts (of the universal Soul) have parts (of the operations) as their acts (or energies). Therefore, just as the universal Soul, which is one, has different parts, so this difference occurs again in the reasons and in the operations they effect. Just as their works (harmonize), so do the souls themselves mutually harmonize; they harmonize in this, that their very diversity, or even opposition, forms an unity. By a natural necessity does everything proceed from, and return to unity; thus creatures which are different, or even opposed, are not any the less co-ordinated in the same system, and that because they proceed from the same principle. Thus horses or human beings are subsumed under the unity of the animal species, even though animals of any kind, such as horses, for example, bite each other, and struggle against each other with a jealousy which rises to fury; and though animals of either species, including man, do as much. Likewise, with inanimate things; they form divers species, and should likewise be subsumed under the genus of inanimate things; and, if you go further, to essence, and further still, to super-Essence (the One). Having thus related or subsumed everything to this principle, let us again descend, by dividing it. We shall see unity splitting, as it penetrates and embraces everything simultaneously in a unique (or all-embracing system). Thus divided, the unity constitutes a multiple organism; each of its constituent parts acts according to its nature, without ceasing to form part of the universal Being; thus is it that the fire burns, the horse behaves as a horse should, and men perform deeds as various as their characters. In short, every being acts, lives well or badly, according to its own nature.


2. Circumstances, therefore, are not decisive of human fortune; they themselves only derive naturally from superior principles, and result from the mutual concatenation of all things. This concatenation, however, derives from the (Stoic) “predominant (element in the universe”), and every being contributes to it according to its nature; just as, in an army, the general commands, and the soldiers carry out his orders cooperatively. In the universe, in fact, everything has been strategically ordered by Providence, like a general, who considers everything, both actions and experiences, victuals and drink, weapons and implements, arranging everything so that every detail finds its suitable location. Thus nothing happens which fails to enter into the general’s plan, although his opponents’ doings remain foreign to his influence, and though he cannot command their army. If indeed, Providence were “the great Chief over all,” to whom the universe is subordinated, what could have disarranged His plans, and could have failed to be intimately associated therewith?


3. Although I am able to make any desired decision, nevertheless my decision enters into the plan of the universe, because my nature has not been introduced into this plan subsequently; but it includes me and my character. But whence originates my character? This includes two points: is the cause of any man’s character to be located in Him who formed him, or in that man himself? Must we, on the other hand, give up seeking its cause? Surely: just as it is hopeless to ask why plants have no sensation, or why animals are not men; it would be the same as asking why men are not gods. Why should we complain that men do not have a more perfect nature, if in the case of plants and animals nobody questions or accuses either these beings themselves, nor the power which has made them? (This would be senseless, for two reasons): if we say that they might have been better, we are either speaking of the qualities which each of them is capable of acquiring by himself; and in this case we should blame only him who has not acquired them—or, we are speaking of those qualities which he should derive not from himself, but from the Creator, in which case it would be as absurd to claim for man more qualities than he has received, than it would be to do so in the case of plants or animals. What we should examine is not if one being be inferior to another, but if it be complete within its own sphere; for evidently natural inequalities are unavoidable. This again depends on conformity to nature, not that inequalities depend on the will of the principle which has regulated all things.


The Reason of the Universe, indeed, proceeds from the universal Soul; and the latter, in turn, proceeds from Intelligence. Intelligence, however, is not a particular being; it consists of all (intelligible beings), and all the beings form a plurality. Now, a plurality of being implies mutual differences between them, consisting of first, second and third ranks. Consequently, the souls of engendered animals are rather degradations of souls, seeming to have grown weaker by their procession. The (generating) reason of the animal, indeed, although it be animated, is a soul other than that from which proceeds universal Reason. This Reason itself loses excellence in the degree that it hastens down to enter into matter, and what it produces is less perfect. Nevertheless, we may well consider how admirable a work is the creature, although it be so far distant from the creator. We should, therefore, not attribute to the creator the (imperfections of the) creature; for any principle is superior to its product. So we may assert that (the principle even of imperfect things) is perfect; and, (instead of complaining), we should rather admire His communication of some traits of His power to beings dependent from Him. We have even reason to be more than grateful for His having given gifts greater than they can receive or assimilate; and as the gifts of Providence are superabundant, we can find the cause (of imperfection) only in the creatures themselves.


4. If man were simple—that is, if he were no more than what he had been created, and if all his actions and passions derived from the same principle—we would no more exercise our reason to complain for his behoof than we have to complain for that of other animals. But we do have something to blame in the man, and that in the perverted man. We have good grounds for this blame, because man is not only that which he was created, but has, besides, another principle which is free (intelligence, with reason). This free principle, however, is not outside of Providence, and the Reason of the universe, any more than it would be reasonable to suppose that the things above depended on the things here below. On the contrary, it is superior things which shed their radiance on inferior ones, and this is the cause of the perfection of Providence. As to the Reason of the universe, it itself is double also; one produces things, while the other unites generated things to intelligible ones. Thus are constituted two providences: a superior one, from above (intellectual Reason, the principal power of the soul), and an inferior one, the (natural and generative power, called) reason, which derives from the first; and from both results the concatenation of things, and universal Providence (or, Providence, and destiny).


Men (therefore, not being only what they were made) possess another principle (free intelligence with reason); but not all make use of all the principles they possess; some make use of the one principle (their intelligence), while others make use of the other (principle of reason), or even of the lower principle (of imagination and sensation). All these principles are present in the man, even when they do not react on him; and even in this case, they are not inert; each fulfills its peculiar office; only they do not all act simultaneously upon him (or, are not perceived by his consciousness). It may seem difficult to understand how this may be the case with all of them present, and it might seem easier to consider them absent; but they are present in us, in the sense that we lack none of them; although we might consider them absent in the sense that a principle that does not react on a man might be considered absent from him. It might be asked why these principles do not react on all men, since they are part of them? We might, referring chiefly to this (free, intelligent, reasonable) principle, say that first, it does not belong to animals; second, it is not even (practiced) by all men. If it be not present in all men, so much the more is it not alone in them, because the being in whom this principle alone is present lives according to this principle, and lives according to other principles only so far as he is compelled by necessity. The cause (which hinders intelligence and reason from dominating us) will have to be sought in the (Stoic) substrate of the man, either because our corporeal constitution troubles the superior principle (of reason and intelligence), or because of the predominance of our passions.

(After all), we have not yet reached any conclusion, because this substrate of man is composed of two elements: the (“seminal) reason,” and matter; (and either of them might be the cause). At first blush, it would seem that the cause (of the predominance of our lower natures) must be sought in matter, rather than in the (“seminal) reason”; and that which dominates in us is not (“seminal) reason,” but matter and organized substrate. This, however, is not the case. What plays the part of substrate in respect of the superior principle (of free intelligence and reason), is both the (“seminal) reason,” and that which is generated thereby, conforming to that reason; consequently, the predominant element in us is not matter, any more than our corporeal constitution.


Besides, our individual characters might be derived from pre-existences. In this case we would say that our (“seminal) reason” has degenerated as a result of our antecedents, that our soul has lost her force by irradiating what was below her. Besides, our (“seminal) reason” contains within itself the very reason of our constituent matter, a matter which it discovered, or conformed to its own nature. In fact, the (“seminal) reason” of an ox resides in no matter other than that of an ox. Thus, as said (Plato), the soul finds herself destined to pass into the bodies of animals other than men, because, just like the (“seminal) reason,” she has altered, and has become such as to animate an ox, instead of a man. By this decree of divine justice she becomes still worse than she was.


But why did the soul ever lose her way, or deteriorate? We have often said that not all souls belong to the first rank; some belong to a second, or even third rank, and who, consequently, are inferior to those of the first. Further, leaving the right road may be caused by a trifling divergence. Third, the approximation of two differing things produces a combination which may be considered a third somewhat, different from the other two components. (Thus even in this new element, or “habituation”) the being does not lose the qualities he received with his existence; if he be inferior, he has been created inferior from the very origin; it is what he was created, he is inferior by the very virtue of his nature; if he suffer the consequences thereof, he suffers them justly. Fourth, we must allow for our anterior existence, because everything that happens to us to-day results from our antecedents.


5. From first to last Providence descends from on high, communicating its gifts not according to the law of an equality that would be numeric, but proportionate, varying its operations according to locality (or occasion). So, in the organization of an animal, from beginning to end, everything is related; every member has its peculiar function, superior or inferior, according to the rank it occupies; it has also its peculiar passions, passions which are in harmony with its nature, and the place it occupies in the system of things. So, for instance, a blow excites responses that differ according to the organ that received it; the vocal organ will produce a sound; another organ will suffer in silence, or execute a movement resultant from that passion; now, all sounds, actions and passions form in the animal the unity of sound, life and existence. The parts, being various, play different roles; thus there are differing functions for the feet, the eyes, discursive reason, and intelligence. But all things form one unity, relating to a single Providence, so that destiny governs what is below, and providence reigns alone in what is on high. In fact, all that lies in the intelligible world is either rational or super-rational, namely: Intelligence and pure Soul. What derives therefrom constitutes Providence, as far as it derives therefrom, as it is in pure Soul, and thence passes into the animals. Thence arises (universal) Reason, which, being distributed in unequal parts, produces things unequal, such as the members of an animal. As consequences from Providence are derived the human deeds which are agreeable to the divinity. All such actions are related (to the plan of Providence); they are not done by Providence; but when a man, or another animate or inanimate being performs some deeds, these, if there be any good in them, enter into the plan of Providence, which everywhere establishes virtue, and amends or corrects errors. Thus does every animal maintain its bodily health by the kind of providence within him; on the occasion of a cut or wound the (“seminal) reason” which administers the body of this animal immediately draws (the tissues) together, and forms scars over the flesh, re-establishes health, and invigorates the members that have suffered.


Consequently, our evils are the consequences (of our actions); they are its necessary effects, not that we are carried away by Providence, but in the sense that we obey an impulsion whose principle is in ourselves. We ourselves then indeed try to reattach our acts to the plan of Providence, but we cannot conform their consequences to its will; our acts, therefore, conform either to our will, or to other things in the universe, which, acting on us, do not produce in us an affection conformed to the intentions of Providence. In fact, the same cause does not act identically on different beings, for the effects experienced by each differ according to their nature. Thus Helena causes emotions in Paris which differ from those of Idumeneus. Likewise, the handsome man produces on a handsome man an effect different from that of the intemperate man on the intemperate; the handsome and temperate man acts differently on the handsome and temperate man than on the intemperate; and than the intemperate on himself. The deed done by the intemperate man is done neither by Providence, nor according to Providence. Neither is the deed done by the temperate man done by Providence; since he does it himself; but it conforms to Providence, because it conforms to the Reason (of the universe). Thus, when a man has done something good for his health, it is he himself who has done it, but he thereby conforms to the reason of the physician; for it is the physician who teaches him, by means of his art, what things are healthy or unhealthy; but when a man has done something injurious to his health, it is he himself who has done it, and he does it against the providence of the physician.


6. If then (the bad things do not conform to Providence), the diviners and astrologers predict evil things only by the concatenation which occurs between contraries, between form and matter, for instance, in a composite being. Thus in contemplating the form and (“seminal) reason” one is really contemplating the being which receives the form; for one does not contemplate in the same way the intelligible animal, and the composite animal; what one contemplates in the composite animal is the (“seminal) reason” which gives form to what is inferior. Therefore, since the world is an animal, when one contemplates its occurrences, one is really contemplating the causes that make them arise, the Providence which presides over them, and whose action extends in an orderly manner to all beings and events; that is, to all animals, their actions and dispositions, which are dominated by Reason and mingled with necessity. We thus contemplate what has been mingled since the beginning, and what is still continually mingled. In this mixture, consequently, it is impossible to distinguish Providence from what conforms thereto, nor what derives from the substrate (that is, from matter, and which, consequently, is deformed, and evil). This is not a human task, not even of a man who might be wise or divine; such a privilege can be ascribed only to God.


In fact, the function of the diviner is not to distinguish the cause, but the fact; his art consists in reading the characters traced by nature, and which invariably indicate the order and concatenation of facts; or rather, in studying the signs of the universal movement, which designate the character of each being before its revelation in himself. All beings, in fact, exercise upon each other a reciprocal influence, and concur together in the constitution and perpetuity of the world. To him who studies, analogy reveals the march of events, because all kinds of divination are founded on its laws; for things were not to depend on each other, but to have relations founded on their resemblance. This no doubt is that which is meant by the expression that “analogy embraces everything.”


Now, what is this analogy? It is a relation between the worse and the worse, the better and the better, one eye and the other, one foot and the other, virtue and justice, vice and injustice. The analogy which reigns in the universe is then that which makes divination possible. The influence which one being exercises on another conforms to the laws of influence which the members of the universal Organism must exercise upon each other. The one does not produce the other; for all are generated together; but each is affected according to its nature, each in its own manner. This constitutes the unity of the Reason of the universe.


7. It is only because there are good things in the world, that there are worse ones. Granting the conception of variety, how could the worse exist without the better, or the better without the worse? We should not, therefore, accuse the better because of the existence of the worse; but rather we should rejoice in the presence of the better, because it communicates a little of its perfection to the worse. To wish to annihilate the worse in the world is tantamount to annihilating Providence itself; for if we annihilate the worse, to what could Providence be applied? Neither to itself, nor to the better; for when we speak of supreme Providence, we call it supreme in contrast with that which is inferior to it.


Indeed, the (supreme) Principle is that to which all other things relate, that in which they all simultaneously exist, thus constituting the totality. All things proceed from the Principle, while it remains wrapt in itself. Thus, from a single root, which remains wrapt in itself, issue a host of parts, each of which offers the image of their root under a different form. Some of them touch the root; others trend away from it, dividing and subdividing down to the branches, twigs, leaves and fruits; some abide permanently (like the branches); others swirl in a perpetual flux, like the leaves and fruits. These latter parts which swirl in a perpetual flux contain within themselves the (“seminal) reasons” of the parts from which they proceed (and which abide permanently); they themselves seem disposed to be little miniature trees; if they engendered before perishing, they would engender only that which is nearest to them. As to the parts (which abide permanently), and which are hollow, such as the branches, they receive from the root the sap which is to fill them; for they have a nature different (from that of the leaves, flowers, and fruits). Consequently, it is the branches’ extremities that experience “passions” (or modifications) which they seem to derive only from the contiguous parts. The parts contiguous to the Root are passive on one end, and active on the other; but the Principle itself is related to all. Although all the parts issue from the same Principle, yet they differ from each other more as they are more distant from the root. Such would be the mutual relations of two brothers who resemble each other because they are born from the same parents.

Ennead 3.4. Of Our Individual Guardian.


Other principles remain unmoved while producing and exhibiting their (“hypostases,” substantial acts, or) forms of existence. The (universal) Soul, however, is in motion while producing and exhibiting her (“substantial act,” or) forms of existence, namely, the functions of sensation and growth, reaching down as far as (the sphere of the) plants. In us also does the Soul function, but she does not dominate us, constituting only a part of our nature. She does, however, dominate in plants, having as it were remained alone there. Beyond that sphere, however, nature begets nothing; for beyond it exists no life, begotten (matter) being lifeless. All that was begotten prior to this was shapeless, and achieved form only by trending towards its begetting principle, as to its source of life. Consequently, that which is begotten cannot be a form of the Soul, being lifeless, but must be absolute in determination. The things anterior (to matter, namely, the sense-power and nature), are doubtless indeterminate, but only so within their form; the are not absolutely indeterminate; they are indeterminate only in respect of their perfection. On the contrary, that which exists at present, namely, (matter), is absolutely indeterminate. When it achieves perfection, it becomes body, on receiving the form suited to its power. This (form) is the receptacle of the principle which has begotten it, and which nourishes it. It is the only trace of the higher things in the body, which occupies the last rank amidst the things below.


2. It is to this (universal) Soul especially that may be applied these words of Plato: “The general Soul cares for all that is inanimate.” The other (individual) souls are in different conditions. “The Soul (adds Plato), circulates around the heavens successively assuming divers forms”; that is, the forms of thought, sense or growth. The part which dominates in the soul fulfills its proper individual function; the others remain inactive, and somehow seem exterior to them. In man, it is not the lower powers of the soul that dominate. They do indeed co-exist with the others. Neither is it always the best power (reason), which always dominates; for the inferior powers equally have their place. Consequently, man (besides being a reasonable being) is also a sensitive being, because he possesses sense-organs. In many respects, he is also a vegetative being; for his body feeds and grows just like a plant. All these powers (reason, sensibility, growth), therefore act together in the man; but it is the best of them that characterizes the totality of the man (so that he is called a “reasonable being”). On leaving the body the soul becomes the power she had preponderatingly developed. Let us therefore flee from here below, and let us raise ourselves to the intelligible world, so as not to fall into the pure sense-life, by allowing ourselves to follow sense-images, or into the life of growth, by abandoning ourselves to the pleasures of physical love, and to gormandizing; rather, let us rise to the intelligible world, to the intelligence, to the divinity!


Those who have exercised their human faculties are re-born as men. Those who have made use of their senses only, pass into the bodies of brutes, and particularly into the bodies of wild animals, if they have yielded themselves to the transports of anger; so that, even in this case, the difference of the bodies they animate is proportioned to the difference of their inclinations. Those whose only effort it was to satisfy their desires and appetites pass into the bodies of lascivious and gluttonous animals. Last, those who instead of following their desires or their anger, have rather degraded their senses by their inertia, are reduced to vegetate in plants; for in their former existence they exercised nothing but their vegetative power, and they worked at nothing but to make trees of themselves. Those who have loved too much the enjoyments of music, and who otherwise lived purely, pass into the bodies of melodious birds. Those who have reigned tyrannically, become eagles, if they have no other vice. Last, those who spoke lightly of celestial things, having kept their glance directed upwards, are changed into birds which usually fly towards the high regions of the air. He who has acquired civil virtues again becomes a man; but if he does not possess them to a sufficient degree, he is transformed into a sociable animal, such as the bee, or other animal of the kind.


3. What then is our guardian? It is one of the powers of our soul. What is our divinity? It is also one of the powers of our soul. (Is it the power which acts principally in us as some people think?) For the power which acts in us seems to be that which leads us, since it is the principle which dominates in us. Is that the guardian to which we have been allotted during the course of our life? No: our guardian is the power immediately superior to the one that we exercise, for it presides over our life without itself being active. The power which is active in us is inferior to the one that presides over our life, and it is the one which essentially constitutes us. If then we live on the plane of the sense-life, our guardian is reason; if we live on the rational plane, our guardian will be the principal superior to reason (namely, intelligence); it will preside over our life, but it itself does not act, leaving that to the inferior power. Plato truly said that “we choose our guardian”; for, by the kind of life that we prefer, we choose the guardian that presides over our life. Why then does He direct us? He directs us during the course of our mortal life (because he is given to us to help us to accomplish our (destiny); but he can no longer direct us when our destiny is accomplished, because the power over the exercise of which he presided allows another power to act in his place (which however is dead, since the life in which it acted is terminated). This other power wishes to act in its turn, and, after having established its preponderance, it exercises itself during the course of a new life, itself having another guardian. If then we should chance to degrade ourselves by letting an inferior power prevail in us, we are punished for it. Indeed, the evil man degenerates because the power which he has developed in his life makes him descend to the existence of the brute, by assimilating him to it by his morals. If we could follow the guardian who is superior to him, he himself would become superior by sharing his life. He would then take as guide a part of himself superior to the one that governs him, then another part, still more elevated until he had arrived at the highest. Indeed, the soul is several things, or rather, the soul is all things; she is things both inferior and superior; she contains all the degrees of life. Each of us, in a certain degree, is the intelligible world; by our inferior part we are related to the sense-world, and by our superior part, to the intelligible world; we remain there on high by what constitutes our intelligible essence; we are attached here below by the powers which occupy the lowest rank in the soul. Thus we cause an emanation, or rather an actualization which implies no loss to the intelligible, to pass from the intelligible into the sense-world.


4. Is the power which is the act of the soul always united to a body? No; for when the soul turns towards the superior regions, she raises this power with her. Does the universal (Soul) also raise with herself to the intelligible world the inferior power which is her actualization (nature)? No: for she does not incline towards her low inferior portion, because she neither came nor descended into the world; but, while she remains in herself, the body of the world comes to unite with her, and to offer itself to receive her light’s radiation; besides, her body does not cause her any anxiety, because it is not exposed to any peril. Does not the world, then, possess any senses? “It has no sight” (says Plato) “for it has no eyes. Neither has it ears, nostrils, nor tongue.” Does it, then, as we, possess the consciousness of what is going on within it? As, within the world, all things go on uniformly according to nature, it is, in this respect, in a kind of repose; consequently, it does not feel any pleasure. The power of growth exists within it without being present therein; and so also with the sense-power. Besides, we shall return to a study of the question. For the present, we have said all that relates to the question in hand.


5. But if (before coming on to the earth) the soul chooses her life and her guardian, how do we still preserve our liberty? Because what is called “choice” designates in an allegorical manner the character of the soul, and her general disposition everywhere. Again, it is objected that if the character of the soul preponderate, if the soul be dominated by that part which her former life rendered predominantly active, it is no longer the body which is her cause of evil; for if the character of the soul be anterior to her union with the body; if she have the character she has chosen; if, as said (Plato), she do not change her guardian, it is not here below that a man may become good or evil. The answer to this is, that potentially man is equally good or evil. (By his choices) however he may actualize one or the other.


What then would happen if a virtuous man should have a body of evil nature, or a vicious man a body of a good nature? The goodness of the soul has more or less influence on the goodness of the body. Exterior circumstances cannot thus alter the character chosen by the soul. When (Plato) says that the lots are spread out before the souls, and that later the different kinds of conditions are displayed before them, and that the fortune of each results from the choice made amidst the different kinds of lives present—a choice evidently made according to her character—(Plato) evidently attributes to the soul the power of conforming to her character the condition allotted to her.


Besides, our guardian is not entirely exterior to us; and, on the other hand, he is not bound to us, and is not active in us; he is ours, in the sense that he has a certain relation with our soul; he is not ours, in the sense that we are such men, living such a life under his supervision. This is the meaning of the terms used (by Plato) in the Timæus. If these be taken in the above sense, all explains itself; if not, Plato contradicts himself.


One can still understand thus why he says that our guardian helps us to fulfill the destiny we have chosen. In fact, presiding over our life, he does not permit us to descend very far below the condition we have chosen. But that which then is active is the principle below the guardian and which can neither transcend him, nor equal him; for he could not become different from what he is.


6. Who then is the virtuous man? He in whom is active the highest part of the soul. If his guardian contributed to his actions, he would not deserve being called virtuous. Now it is the Intelligence which is active in the virtuous man. It is the latter, then, who is a guardian, or lives according to one; besides, his guardian is the divinity. Is this guardian above Intelligence? Yes, if the guardian have, as guardian, the principle superior to Intelligence (the Good). But why does the virtuous man not enjoy this privilege since the beginning? Because of the trouble he felt in falling into generation. Even before the exercise of reason, he has within him a desire which leads him to the things which are suitable to him. But does this desire direct with sovereign influence? No, not with sovereignty; for the soul is so disposed that, in such circumstances becoming such, she adopts such a life, and follows such an inclination.


(Plato) says that the guardian leads the soul to the hells, and that he does not remain attached to the same soul, unless this soul should again choose the same condition. What does the guardian do before this choice? Plato teaches us that he leads the soul to judgment, that after the generation he assumes again the same form as before; and then as if another existence were then beginning, during the time between generations, the guardian presides over the chastisements of the souls, and this period is for them not so much a period of life, as a period of expiation.


Do the souls that enter into the bodies of brutes also have a guardian? Yes, doubtless, but an evil or stupid one.


What is the condition of the souls that have raised themselves on high? Some are in the sensible world, others are outside of it. The souls that are in the sense-world dwell in the sun, or in some other planet, or in the firmament, according as they have more or less developed their reason. We must, indeed, remember that our soul contains in herself not only the intelligible world, but also a disposition conformable to the Soul of the world. Now as the latter is spread out in the movable spheres and in the immovable sphere by her various powers, our soul must possess powers conformable to these, each of which exercise their proper function. The souls which rise from here below into the heavens go to inhabit the star which harmonizes with their moral life, and with the power which they have developed; with their divinity, or their guardian. Then they will have either the same guardian, or the guardian which is superior to the power which they exert. This matter will have to be considered more minutely.


As to the souls which have left the sense-world, so long as they remain in the intelligible world, they are above the guardian condition, and the fatality of generation. Souls bring with them thither that part of their nature which is desirous of begetting, and which may reasonably be regarded as the essence which is divisible in the body, and which multiplies by dividing along with the bodies. Moreover, if a soul divide herself, it is not in respect to extension; because she is entirely in all the bodies. On the other hand, the Soul is one; and from a single animal are ceaselessly born many young. This generative element splits up like the vegetative nature in plants; for this nature is divisible in the bodies. When this divisible essence dwells in the same body, it vivifies the body, just as the vegetative power does for plants. When it retires, it has already communicated life, as is seen in cut trees, or in corpses where putrefaction has caused the birth of several animals from a single one. Besides, the vegetative power of the human soul is assisted by the vegetative power that is derived from the universal (Soul), and which here below is the same (as on high).


If the soul return here below, she possesses, according to the life which she is to lead, either the same guardian, or another. With her guardian she enters into this world as if in a skiff. Then she is subjected to the power (by Plato) called the Spindle of Necessity; and, embarking in this world, she takes the place assigned to her by fortune. Then she is caught by the circular movement of the heavens, whose action, as if it were the wind, agitates the skiff in which the soul is seated; or rather, is borne along. Thence are born varied spectacles, transformations and divers incidents for the soul which is embarked in this skiff; whether because of the agitation of the sea which bears it, or because of the conduct of the passenger who is sailing in the bark, and who preserves her freedom of action therein. Indeed, not every soul placed in the same circumstances makes the same movements, wills the same volitions, or performs the same actions. For different beings, therefore, the differences arise from circumstances either similar or different, or even the same events may occur to them under different circumstances. It is this (uncertainty) that constitutes Providence.

Ennead 3.5. Of Love, or “Eros.”


1. Is Love a divinity, a guardian, or a passion of the human soul? Or is it all three under different points of view? In this case, what is it under each of these points of view? These are the questions we are to consider, consulting the opinions of men, but chiefly those of the philosophers. The divine Plato, who has written much about love, here deserves particular attention. He says that it is not only a passion capable of being born in souls, but he calls it also a guardian, and he gives many details about its birth and parents.


To begin with passion, it is a matter of common knowledge that the passion designated as love is born in the souls which desire to unite themselves to a beautiful object. But its object may be either a shameful practice, or one (worthy to be pursued by) temperate men, who are familiar with beauty. We must, therefore, investigate in a philosophical manner what is the origin of both kinds of love.


The real cause of love is fourfold: the desire of beauty; our soul’s innate notion of beauty; our soul’s affinity with beauty, and our soul’s instinctive sentiment of this affinity. (Therefore as beauty lies at the root of love, so) ugliness is contrary to nature and divinity. In fact, when Nature wants to create, she contemplates what is beautiful, determinate, and comprehended within the (Pythagorean) “sphere” of the Good. On the contrary, the (Pythagorean) “indeterminate” is ugly, and belongs to the other system. Besides, Nature herself owes her origin to the Good, and, therefore, also to the Beautiful. Now, as soon as one is attracted by an object, because one is united to it by a secret affinity, he experiences for the images of this object a sentiment of sympathy. We could not explain its origin, or assign its cause on any other hypothesis, even were we to limit ourselves to the consideration of physical love. Even this kind of love is a desire to procreate beauty, for it would be absurd to insist that that Nature, which aspires to create beautiful things, should aspire to procreate that which is ugly.


Of course, those who, here below, desire to procreate are satisfied in attaining that which is beautiful here below: namely, the beauty which shines in images and bodies; for they do not possess that intelligible Beauty which, nevertheless, inspires them with that very love which they bear to visible beauty. That is the reason why those who ascend to the reminiscence of intelligible Beauty love that which they behold here below only because it is an image of the other. As to those who fail to rise to the reminiscence of the intelligible Beauty, because they do not know the cause of their passion, they mistake visible beauty for that veritable Beauty, and they may even love it chastely, if they be temperate: but to go as far as a carnal union is an error, in any case. Hence, it happens that only he who is inspired by a pure love for the beautiful really loves beauty, whether or not he have aroused his reminiscence of intelligible Beauty.


They who join to this passion as much of a desire for immortality as our mortal nature admits, seek beauty in the perpetuity of the procreation which renders man imperishable. They determine to procreate and produce beauty according to nature; procreating because their object is perpetuity; and procreating beautifully because they possess affinity with it. In fact, perpetuity does bear affinity to beauty; perpetual nature is beauty itself; and such also are all its derivatives.


Thus he who does not desire to procreate seems to aspire to the possession of the beautiful in a higher degree. He who desires to procreate does no doubt desire to procreate the beautiful; but his desire indicates in him the presence of need, and dissatisfaction with mere possession of beauty; He thinks he will be procreating beauty, if he begets on that which is beautiful. They who wish to satisfy physical love against human laws, and nature, no doubt have a natural inclination as principle of a triple passion; but they lose their way straying from the right road for lack of knowledge of the end to which love was impelling them, of the goal of the aspiration (roused by) the desire of generation, and of the proper use of the image of beauty. They really do ignore Beauty itself. They who love beautiful bodies without desiring to unite themselves to them, love them for their beauty only. Those who love the beauty of women, and desire union with them, love both beauty and perpetuity, so long as this object is not lost from sight. Both of these are temperate, but they who love bodies for their beauty only are the more virtuous. The former admire sensual beauty, and are content therewith; the latter recall intelligible beauty, but, without scorning visible beauty, regard it as an effect and image of the intelligible Beauty. Both, therefore, love beauty without ever needing to blush. But, as to those (who violate laws human and divine), love of beauty misleads them to falling into ugliness; for the desire of good may often mislead to a fall into evil. Such is love considered as a passion of the soul.


2. Now let us speak of the Love which is considered a deity not only by men in general, but also by the (Orphic) theologians, and by Plato. The latter often speaks of Love, son of Venus, attributing to him the mission of being the chief of the beautiful children (or, boys); and to direct souls to the contemplation of intelligible Beauty, or, if already present, to intensify the instinct to seek it. In his “Banquet” Plato says that Love is born (not of Venus, but) of Abundance and Need, . . . on some birthday (?) of Venus.


To explain if Love be born of Venus, or if he were only born contemporaneously with his mother, we shall have to study something about Venus. What is Venus? Is she the mother of Love, or only his contemporary? As answer hereto we shall observe that there are two Venuses. The second (or Popular Venus) is daughter of Jupiter and Dione, and she presides over earthly marriages. The first Venus, the celestial one, daughter of Uranus (by Plato, in his Cratylus, interpreted to mean “contemplation of things above”), has no mother, and does not preside over marriages, for the reason that there are none in heaven. The Celestial Venus, therefore, daughter of Kronos, that is, of Intelligence, is the divine Soul, which is born pure of pure Intelligence, and which dwells above. As her nature does not admit of inclining earthward, she neither can nor will descend here below. She is, therefore, a form of existence (or, an hypostasis), separated from matter, not participating in its nature. This is the significance of the allegory that she had no mother. Rather than a guardian, therefore, she should be considered a deity, as she is pure Being unmingled (with matter), and abiding within herself.


In fact, that which is immediately born of Intelligence is pure in itself, because, by its very proximity to Intelligence, it has more innate force, desiring to unite itself firmly to the principle that begat it, and which can retain it there on high. The soul which is thus suspended to Intelligence could not fall down, any more than the light which shines around the sun could separate from the body from which it radiates, and to which it is attached.


Celestial Venus (the universal Soul, the third principle or hypostasis), therefore, attaches herself to Kronos (divine Intelligence, the second principle), or, if you prefer to Uranos (the One, the Good, the first Principle), the father of Kronos. Thus Venus turns towards Uranos, and unites herself to him; and in the act of loving him, she procreates Love, with which she contemplates Uranus. Her activity thus effects a hypostasis and being. Both of them therefore fix their gaze on Uranus, both the mother and the fair child, whose nature it is to be a hypostasis ever turned towards another beauty, an intermediary essence between the lover and the beloved object. In fact, Love is the eye by which the lover sees the beloved object; anticipating her, so to speak; and before giving her the faculty of seeing by the organ which he thus constitutes, he himself is already full of the spectacle offered to his contemplation. Though he thus anticipates her, he does not contemplate the intelligible in the same manner as she does, in that he offers her the spectacle of the intelligible, and that he himself enjoys the vision of the beautiful, a vision that passes by him (or, that coruscates around him, as an aureole).


3. We are therefore forced to acknowledge that Love is a hypostasis and is “being,” which no doubt is inferior to the Being from which it (emanates, that is, from celestial Venus, or the celestial Soul), but which, nevertheless, still possesses “being.” In fact, that celestial Soul is a being born of the activity which is superior to her (the primary Being), a living Being, emanating from the primary Being, and attached to the contemplation thereof. In it she discovers the first object of her contemplation, she fixes her glance on it, as her good; and finds in this view a source of joy. The seen object attracts her attention so that, by the joy she feels, by the ardent attention characterizing her contemplation of its object, she herself begets something worthy of her and of the spectacle she enjoys. Thus is Love born from the attention with which the soul applies herself to the contemplation of its object, and from the very emanation of this object; and so Love is an eye full of the object it contemplates, a vision united to the image which it forms. Thus Love (Eros) seems to owe its name to its deriving its existence from vision. Even when considered as passion does Love owe its name to the same fact, for Love-that-is-a-being is anterior to Love-that-is-not-a-being. However much we may explain passion as love, it is, nevertheless, ever the love of some object, and is not love in an absolute sense.


Such is the love that characterizes the superior Soul (the celestial Soul). It contemplates the intelligible world with it, because Love is the Soul’s companion, being born of the Soul, and abiding in the Soul, and with her enjoys contemplation of the divinities. Now as we consider the Soul which first radiates its light on heaven as separate from matter, we must admit that the love which is connected with her, is likewise separate from matter. If we say that this pure Soul really resides in heaven, it is in the sense in which we say that that which is most precious in us (the reasonable soul) resides in our body, and, nevertheless, is separate from matter. This love must, therefore, reside only there where resides this pure Soul.


But as it was similarly necessary that beneath the celestial Soul there should exist the world-Soul, there must exist with it another love, born of her desire, and being her eye. As this Venus belongs to this world, and as it is not the pure soul, nor soul in an absolute sense, it has begotten the Love which reigns here below, and which, with her, presides over marriages. As far as this Love himself feels the desire for the intelligible, he turns towards the intelligible the souls of the young people, and he elevates the soul to which he may be united, as far as it is naturally disposed to have reminiscence of the intelligible. Every soul, indeed, aspires to the Good, even that soul that is mingled with matter, and that is the soul of some particular being; for it is attached to the superior Soul, and proceeds therefrom.


4. Does each soul include such a love in her being, and possess it as a hypostatic (form of existence)? Since the world-Soul possesses, as hypostasis (form of existence), the Love which is inherent in her being, our soul should also similarly possess, as hypostatic (form of existence), a love equally inherent in our being. Why should the same not obtain even with animals? This love inherent to the being of every soul is the guardian considered to be attached to each individual. It inspires each soul with the desires natural for her to experience; for, according to her nature, each soul begets a love which harmonizes with her dignity and being. As the universal Soul possesses universal Love, so do individual souls each possess her individual love. But as the individual souls are not separated from the universal Soul, and are so contained within her that their totality forms but a single soul, so are individual loves contained within the universal Love. On the other hand, each individual love is united to an individual soul, as universal Love is united to the universal Soul. The latter exists entire everywhere in the universe, and so her unity seems multiple; she appears anywhere in the universe that she pleases, under the various forms suitable to her parts, and she reveals herself, at will, under some visible form.


We shall have to assume also a multiplicity of Venuses, which, born with Love, occupy the rank of guardians. They originate from the universal Venus, from which derive all the individual “venuses,” with the loves peculiar to each. In fact, the soul is the mother of love; now Venus is the Soul, and Love is the Soul’s activity in desiring the Good. The love which leads each soul to the nature of the Good, and which belongs to her most exalted part, must also be considered a deity, inasmuch as it unites the soul to the Good. The love which belongs to the soul mingled (with matter), is to be considered a Guardian only.


5. What is the nature of this Guardian, and what is, in general, the nature of guardians, according to (Plato’s treatment of the subject in) his “Banquet”? What is the nature of guardians? What is the nature of the Love born of Need (Penia) and Abundance (Poros), son of Prudence (Metis), at the birth of Venus?

(Plutarch) held that Plato, by Love, meant the world. He should have stated that Love is part of the world, and was born in it. His opinion is erroneous, as may be demonstrated by several proofs. First, (Plato) calls the world a blessed deity, that is self-sufficient; however, he never attributes these characteristics to Love, which he always calls a needy being. Further, the world is composed of a body and a Soul, the latter being Venus; consequently, Venus would be the directing part of Love; or, if we take the world to mean the world-Soul, just as we often say “man” when we mean the human soul, Love would be identical with Venus. Third, if Love, which is a Guardian, is the world, why should not the other Guardians (who evidently are of the same nature) not also be the world? In this case, the world would be composed of Guardians. Fourth, how could we apply to the world that which (Plato) says of Love, that it is the “guardian of fair children”? Last, Plato describes Love as lacking clothing, shoes, and lodging. This could not be applied to the world without absurdity or ridicule.


6. To explain the nature and birth of Love, we shall have to expound the significance of his mother Need to his father Abundance, and to show how such parents suit him. We shall also have to show how such parents suit the other Guardians, for all Guardians, by virtue of their being Guardians, must have the same nature, unless, indeed, Guardians have only that name in common.


First, we shall have to consider the difference between deities and guardians. Although it be common to call Guardians deities, we are here using the word in that sense it bears when one says that Guardians and deities belong to different species. The deities are impassible, while the Guardians, though eternal, can experience passions; placed beneath the deities, but next to us, they occupy the middle place between deities and men.


But how did the Guardians not remain impassible? How did they descend to an inferior nature? This surely is a question deserving consideration. We should also inquire whether there be any Guardian in the intelligible world, whether there be Guardians only here below, and if deities exist only in the intelligible world. (We shall answer as follows.) There are deities also here below; and the world is, as we habitually say, a deity of the third rank, inasmuch as every supra-lunar being is a divinity. Next, it would be better not to call any being belonging to the intelligible world a Guardian; and if we locate the chief Guardian (the Guardian himself) in the intelligible world, we had better consider him a deity. In the world of sense, all the visible supra-lunar deities should be called second-rank deities, in that they are placed below the intelligible deities, and depend on them as the rays of light from the star from which they radiate. Last, a Guardian should be defined as the vestige of a soul that had descended into the world. The latter condition is necessary because every pure soul begets a deity, and we have already said that the love of such a soul is a deity.


But why are not all the Guardians Loves? Further, why are they not completely pure from all matter? Among Guardians, those are Loves, which owe their existence to a soul’s desire for the good and the beautiful; therefore, all souls that have entered into this world each generate a Love of this kind. As to the other Guardians, which are not born of human souls, they are engendered by the different powers of the universal Soul, for the utility of the All; they complete and administer all things for the general good. The universal Soul, in fact, was bound to meet the needs of the universe by begetting Guardian powers which would suit the All of which she is the soul.


How do Guardians participate in matter, and of what matter are they formed? This their matter is not corporeal, otherwise they would be animals with sensation. In fact, whether they have aerial or fire-like bodies, they must have had a nature primitively different (from pure Intelligence) to have ultimately united each with his own body, for that which is entirely pure could not have immediately united with a body, although many philosophers think that the being of every Guardian, as guardian, is united to an air-like or fire-like body. But why is the being of every Guardian mingled with a body, while the being of every deity is pure, unless in the first case there be a cause which produces the mingling (with matter)? This cause must be the existence of an intelligible matter, so that whatever participates in it might, by its means, come to unite with sense-matter.


7. Plato’s account of the birth of Love is that Abundance intoxicated himself with nectar, this happening before the day of wine, which implies that Love was born before the sense-world’s existence. Then Need, the mother of Love, must have participated in the intelligible nature itself, and not in a simple image of the intelligible nature; she, therefore, approached (the intelligible nature) and found herself to be a mixture of form and indeterminateness (or, intelligible matter). The soul, in fact, containing a certain indeterminateness before she had reached the Good, but feeling a premonition of her existence, formed for herself a confused and indeterminate image, which became the very hypostasis (or, form of existence) of Love. Thus, as here, reason mingles with the unreasonable, with an indeterminate desire, with an indistinct (faint or obscure) hypostatic (form of existence). What was born was neither perfect nor complete; it was something needy, because it was born from an indeterminate desire, and a complete reason. As to (Love, which is) the thus begotten reason, it is not pure, since it contains a desire that is indeterminate, unreasonable, indefinite; nor will it ever be satisfied so long as it contains the nature of indetermination. It depends on the soul, which is its generating principle; it is a mixture effected by a reason which, instead of remaining within itself, is mingled with indetermination. Besides, it is not Reason itself, but its emanation which mingles with indetermination.


Love, therefore, is similar to a gad-fly; needy by nature, it still remains needy, whatever it may obtain; it could never be satisfied, for this would be impossible for a being that is a mixture; no being could ever be fully satisfied if by its nature it be incapable of attaining fullness; even were it satisfied for a moment, it could not retain anything if its nature made it continue to desire. Consequently, on one side, Love is deprived of all resources because of its neediness; and on the other, it possesses the faculty of acquisition, because of the reason that enters into its constitution.


All other Guardians have a similar constitution. Each of them desires, and causes the acquisition of the good he is destined to procure; that is the characteristic they have in common with Love. Neither could they ever attain satisfaction; they still desire some particular good. The result of this is that the men who here below are good are inspired by the love of the true, absolute Good, and not by the love of such and such a particular good. Those who are subordinated to divers Guardians are successively subordinated to such or such a Guardian; they let the simple and pure love of the absolute Good rest within themselves, while they see to it that their actions are presided over by another Guardian, that is, another power of their soul, which is immediately superior to that which directs them, or is active within them. As to the men who, driven by evil impulses, desire evil things, they seem to have chained down all the loves in their souls, just as, by false opinions, they darken the right reason which is innate within them. Thus all the loves implanted in us by nature, and which conform to nature, are all good; those that belong to the inferior part of the soul are inferior in rank and power; those that belong to the superior part are superior; all belong to the being of the soul. As to the loves which are contrary to nature, they are the passions of strayed souls, having nothing essential or substantial; for they are not engendered by the pure Soul; they are the fruits of the faults of the soul which produces them according to her vicious habits and dispositions.


In general, we might admit that the true goods which are possessed by the soul when she acts conformably to her nature, by applying herself to things determined (by reason), constitute real being; that the others, on the contrary, are not engendered by the very action of the soul, and are only passions. Likewise, false intellections lack real being, such as belongs to true intellections, which are eternal and determinate, possessing simultaneously the intellectual act, the intelligible existence and essence; and this latter not only in general, but in each real intelligible being (manifesting?) Intelligence in each idea. As to us, we must acknowledge that we possess only intellection and the intelligible; we do not possess them together (or completely), but only in general; and hence comes our love for generalities. Our conceptions, indeed, usually trend towards the general. It is only by accident that we conceive something particular; when, for instance, we conceive that some particular triangle’s angles amount to two right angles, it is only as a result of first having conceived that the triangle in general possesses this property.


8. Finally, who is this Jupiter into whose gardens (Plato said that) Abundance entered? What are these gardens? As we have already agreed, Venus is the Soul, and Abundance is the Reason of all things. We still have to explain the significance of Jupiter and his gardens.

Jupiter cannot well signify anything else than the soul, since we have already admitted that the soul was Venus. We must here consider Jupiter as that deity which Plato, in his Phædrus, calls the Great Chief; and, elsewhere, as I think, the Third God. He explains himself more clearly in this respect in the Philebus, where he says that Jupiter “has a royal soul, a royal intelligence.” Since Jupiter is, therefore, both an intelligence and a soul, since he forms part of the order of causes, since we must assign him his rank according to what is best in him; and for several reasons, chiefly because he is a cause, a royal and directing cause, he must be considered as the Intelligence. Venus (that is, Aphrodite) which belongs to him, which proceeds from him, and accompanies him, occupies the rank of a soul, for she represents in the soul that which is beautiful, brilliant, pure, and delicate (“abron”); and that is why she is called “Aphrodite.” In fact, if we refer the male deities to the intellect, and if we consider the female deities as souls—because a soul is attached to each intelligence—we shall have one more reason to relate Venus to Jupiter. Our views upon this point are confirmed by the teachings of the priests and the (Orphic) Theologians, who always identify Venus and Juno, and who call the evening star, or Star of Venus, the Star of Juno.


9. Abundance, being the reason of the things that exist in Intelligence and in the intelligible world—I mean the reason which pours itself out and develops—trends towards the soul, and exists therein. Indeed, the (Being) which remains united in Intelligence does not emanate from a foreign principle, while the intoxication of Abundance is only a factitious fullness But what is that which is intoxicated with nectar? It is Reason that descends from the superior principle to the inferior; the Soul receives it from Intelligence at the moment of the birth of Venus; that is why it is said that the nectar flows in the garden of Jupiter. This whole garden is the glory and splendor of the wealth (of Intelligence); this glory originates in the reason of Jupiter; this splendor is the light which the intelligence of this Deity sheds on the soul. What else but the beauties and splendors of this deity could the “gardens of Jupiter” signify? On the other hand, what else can the beauties and splendors of Jupiter be, if not the reasons that emanate from him? At the same time, these reasons are called Abundance (Poros, or “euporia”), the wealth of the beauties which manifest; that is the nectar which intoxicates Abundance. For indeed what else is the nectar among the deities, but that which each of them receives? Now Reason is that which is received from Intelligence by its next inferior principle. Intelligence possesses itself fully; yet this self-possession does not intoxicate it, as it possesses nothing foreign thereto. On the contrary, Reason is engendered by Intelligence. As it exists beneath Intelligence, and does not, as Intelligence does, belong to itself, it exists in another principle; consequently, we say that Abundance is lying down in the garden of Jupiter, and that at the very moment when Venus, being born, takes her place among living beings.


10. If myths are to earn their name (of something “reserved,” or “silent”) they must necessarily develop their stories under the category of time, and present as separate many things, that are simultaneous, though different in rank or power. That is the reason they so often mention the generation of ungenerated things, and that they so often separate simultaneous things. But after having thus (by this analysis) yielded us all the instruction possible to them, these myths leave it to the reader to make a synthesis thereof. Ours is the following:


Venus is the Soul which coexists with Intelligence, and subsists by Intelligence. She receives from Intelligence the reasons which fill her, and embellishes her, and whose abundance makes us see in the Soul the splendor and image of all beauties. The reasons which subsist in the Soul are Abundance of the nectar which flows down from above. Their splendors which shine in the Soul, as in life, represent the Garden of Jupiter. Abundance falls asleep in this garden, because he is weighted down by the fullness contained within him. As life manifests and ever exists in the order of beings, (Plato) says that the deities are seated at a feast, because they ever enjoy this beatitude.


Since the Soul herself exists, Love also must necessarily exist, and it owes its existence to the desire of the Soul which aspires to the better and the Good. Love is a mixed being: it participates in need, because it needs satisfaction; it also participates in abundance, because it struggles to acquire good which it yet lacks, inasmuch as only that which lacked good entirely would cease to seek it. It is, therefore, correct to call Love the son of Abundance and Need, which are constituted by lack, desire, and reminiscence of the reasons—or ideas—which, reunited in the soul, have therein engendered that aspiration towards the good which constitutes love. Its mother is Need, because desire belongs only to need, and “need” signifies matter, which is entire need. Even indetermination, which characterizes the desire of the good, makes the being which desires the Good play the part of matter—since such a being would have neither form nor reason, considered only from its desiring. It is a form only inasmuch as it remains within itself. As soon as it desires to attain a new perfection, it is matter relatively to the being from whom it desires to receive somewhat.


That is why Love is both a being which participates in matter, and is also a Guardian born of the soul; it is the former, inasmuch as it does not completely possess the good; it is the latter, inasmuch as it desires the Good from the very moment of its birth.

Ennead 3.6. Of the Impassibility of Incorporeal Entities (Soul and and Matter).



1. Sensations are not affections, but actualizations, and judgments, relative to passions. The affections occur in what is other (than the soul); that is, in the organized body, and the judgment in the soul. For if the judgment were an affection, it would itself presuppose another judgment, and so on to infinity. Though accepting this statement, we must, nevertheless, examine whether the judgment itself, as such, in nowise participates in the nature of its object; for if it receive the impression thereof, it is passive. Besides, the “images derived from the senses”—to use the popular language—are formed in a manner entirely different from what is generally believed. They are in the same case as the intellectual conceptions, which are actualizations, and through which, without being affected, we know objects. In general, neither our reason nor our will permit us, in any way, to attribute to the soul modifications and changes such as the heating or cooling of bodies. Further, we have to consider whether that part of the soul, that is called the passive (or affective, or irrational), must also be be considered as unalterable, or as being affectible. But we will take up this question later; we must begin by solving our earlier problems.


How could that part of the soul that is superior to sensation and passion remain unalterable, while admitting vice, false opinions, and ignorance (or folly); when it has desires or aversions; when it yields itself to joy or pain, to hate, jealousy, and appetite; when, in one word, it never remains calm, but when all the things that happen to it agitate it, and produce changes within it?


If, (on the Stoic hypothesis) the soul were extended, and corporeal, it would be difficult, or rather impossible for her to remain impassible and unalterable when the above-mentioned occurrences take place within her. If, on the contrary, she be a “being” that is unextended, and incorruptible, we must take care not to attribute to her affections that might imply that she is perishable. If, on the contrary, her “being” be a number or a reason, as we usually say, how could an affection occur within a number or a reason? We must therefore attribute to the soul only irrational reasons, passions without passivity; that is, we must consider these terms as no more than metaphors drawn from the nature of bodies, taking them in an opposite sense, seeing in them no more than mere analogies, so that we may say that the soul experiences them without experiencing them, and that she is passive without really being such (as are the bodies). Let us examine how all this occurs.


2. What occurs in the soul when she contains a vice? We ask this because it is usual to say, “to snatch a vice from the soul;” “to introduce virtue into her,” “to adorn her,” “to replace ugliness by beauty in her.” Let us also premiss, following the opinions of the ancients, that virtue is a harmony, and wickedness the opposite. That is the best means to solve the problem at issue. Indeed, when the parts of the soul (the rational part, the irascible part, and the part of appetite), harmonize with each other, we shall have virtue; and, in the contrary case, vice. Still, in both cases, nothing foreign to the soul enters into her; each of her parts remain what they are, while contributing to harmony. On the other hand, when there is dissonance, they could not play the same parts as the personnel of a choric ballet, who dance and sing in harmony, though not all of them fill the same functions; though one sings while the remainder are silent; and though each sings his own part; for it does not suffice that they all sing in tune, they must each properly sing his own part. In the soul we therefore have harmony when each part fulfills its functions. Still each must have its own virtue before the existence of a harmony; or its vice, before there is disharmony. What then is the thing whose presence makes each part of the soul good or evil? Evidently the presence of virtue or vice. The mere statement that, for the rational part (of the soul) vice consists in ignorance, is no more than a simple negation, and predicates nothing positive about reason.


But when the soul contains some of those false opinions which are the principal cause of vice, must we not acknowledge that something positive occurs in her, and that one of her parts undergoes an alteration? Is not the disposition of the soul’s irascible part different according to its courage or cowardliness? And the soul’s appetitive-part, according to whether it be temperate or intemperate? We answer that a part of the soul is virtuous, when it acts in conformity with its “being,” or when it obeys reason; for reason commands all the parts of the soul, and herself is subjected to intelligence. Now to obey reason is to see; it is not to receive an impression, but to have an intuition, to carry out the act of vision. Sight is of the same (nature) when in potentiality, or in actualization; it is not altered in passing from potentiality to actualization, she only applies herself to do what it is her (nature) to do, to see and know, without being affected. Her rational part is in the same relation with intelligence; she has the intuition thereof. The nature of intelligence is not to receive an impression similar to that made by a seal, but in one sense to possess what it sees, and not to possess it in another; intelligence possesses it by cognizing it; but intelligence does not possess it in this sense that while seeing it intelligence does not receive from it a shape similar to that impressed on wax by a seal. Again, we must not forget that memory does not consist in keeping impressions, but is the soul’s faculty of recalling and representing to herself the things that are not present to her. Some objector might say that the soul is different before reawakening a memory, and after having reawakened it. She may indeed be different, but she is not altered, unless indeed, we call the passing from potentiality to actualization an alteration. In any case, nothing extraneous enters into her, she only acts according to her own nature.


In general, the actualizations of immaterial (natures) do not in any way imply that these (natures) were altered—which would imply their destruction—but, on the contrary, they remain what they were. Only material things are affected, while active. If an immaterial principle were exposed to undergo affections, it would no longer remain what it is. Thus in the act of vision, the sight acts, but it is the eye that is affected. As to opinions, they are actualizations analogous to sight.


But how can the soul’s irascible-part be at one time courageous, and at the other cowardly? When it is cowardly, it does not consider reason, or considers reason as having already become evil; or because the deficiency of its instruments, that is, the lack of weakness of its organs, hinders it from acting, or feeling emotion, or being irritated. In the contrary condition it is courageous. In either case, the soul undergoes no alteration, nor is affected.


Further, the soul’s appetite is intemperate when it alone is active; for then, in the absence of the principles that ought to command or direct her, it alone does everything. Besides, the rational part, whose function it is to see (by considering the notions it receives from intelligence), is occupied with something else, for it does not do everything simultaneously, being busy with some other action; it considers other than corporeal things, so far as it can. Perhaps also the virtue or vice of the appetite depend considerably on the good or evil condition of the organs; so that, in either case, nothing is added to the soul.


3. There are desires and aversions in the soul, which demand consideration. It is impossible to deny that pain, anger, joy, appetite and fear are changes and affections which occur in the soul, and that move her. We must here draw a distinction, for it would be denying the evidence to insist that there are in us no changes or perception of these changes. We cannot attribute them to the soul, which would amount to the admission that she blushes, or grows pale, without reflecting that these “passions,” though produced by the soul, occur in a different substance. For the soul, shame consists in the opinion that something is improper; and, as the soul contains the body, or, to speak more exactly, as the body is a dependency of the animating soul, the blood, which is very mobile, rushes to the face. Likewise, the principle of fear is in the soul; paleness occurs in the body because the blood concentrates within the interior parts. In joy, the noticeable dilation belongs to the body also; what the body feels is not a “passion.” Likewise with pain and appetite; their principle is in the soul, where it remains in a latent condition; what proceeds therefrom is perceived by sensation. When we call desires, opinions and reasonings “movements of the soul,” we do not mean that the soul becomes excited in the production of these movements, but that they originate within her. When we call life a movement, we do not by this word mean an alteration; for to act according to one’s nature is the simple and indivisible life of each part of the soul.


In short, we insist that action, life and desire are not alterations, that memories are not forms impressed on the soul, and that actualizations of the imagination are not impressions similar to those of a seal on wax. Consequently in all that we call “passions” or “movements,” the soul undergoes no change in her substance (substrate) or “being” (nature); virtue and vice in the soul are not similar to what heat, cold, whiteness or blackness are in bodies; and the soul’s relation to vice and virtue is entirely different, as has been explained.


4. Let us now pass to that part of the soul that is called the “passional” (or, affective). We have already mentioned it, when treating of all the “passions” (that is, affections), which were related to the irascible-part and appetitive part of the soul; but we are going to return to a study of this part, and explain its name, the “passional” (or, affective) part. It is so called because it seems to be the part affected by the “passions;” that is, experiences accompanied by pleasure or pain. Amidst these affections, some are born of opinion; thus, we feel fear or joy, according as we expect to die, or as we hope to attain some good; then the “opinion” is in the soul, and the “affection” in the body. On the contrary, other passions, occurring in an unforeseen way, give rise to opinion in that part of the soul to which this function belongs, but do not cause any alteration within her, as we have already explained. Nevertheless, if, on examining unexpected fear, we follow it up higher, we discover that it still contains opinion as its origin, implying some apprehension in that part of the soul that experiences fear, as a result of which occur the trouble and stupor which accompany the expectation of evil. Now it is to the soul that belongs imagination, both the primary imagination that we call opinion, and the (secondary) imagination that proceeds from the former; for the latter is no longer genuine opinion, but an inferior power, an obscure opinion, a confused imagination which resembles the action characteristic of nature, and by which this power produces each thing, as we say, unimaginatively. Its resulting sense-agitation occurs within the body. To it relate trembling, palpitation, paleness, and inability to speak. Such modifications, indeed, could not be referred to any part of the soul; otherwise, such part of the soul would be physical. Further, if such part of the soul underwent such affections these modifications would not reach the body; for that affected part of the soul would no longer be able to exercise its functions, being dominated by passion, and thus incapacitated.


The affective part of the soul, therefore, is not corporeal; it is a form indeed, but a form engaged in matter, such as the appetite, the power of growth, both nutritive and generative, a power which is the root and principle of appetite, and the affective part of the soul. Now a form cannot undergo an affection or a passion, but must remain what it is. It is the matter (of a body) which is capable of being affected by a “passion” (an affection), when this affection is produced by the presence of the power which is its principle. Indeed it is neither the power of growth that grows, nor the nutritive power that is fed; in general, the principle that produces a motion is not itself moved by the movement it produces; in case it were moved in any way, its movement and action would be of an entirely different nature. Now the nature of a form is an actualization, by its mere presence producing (something), just as if the harmony alone could cause the vibration of the strings of a lyre. Thus the affective part (of the soul, without itself being affected) is the cause of the affections, whether the movement proceed from it, that is, from sense-imagination, or whether they occur without (distinct) imagination.


We might further consider whether, inasmuch as opinion originates in a higher principle (of the soul), this principle does not remain immovable because it is the form of harmony, while the cause of the movement plays the role of the musician, and the parts caused to vibrate by the affection, that of the strings; for it is not the harmony, but the string that experiences the affection; and even if the musician desired it, the string would not vibrate unless it were prescribed by the harmony.


5. If then, from the very start, the soul undergo no affections, what then is the use of trying to render her impassible by means of philosophy? The reason is that when an image is produced in the soul by the affective part, there results in the body an affection and a movement; and to this agitation is related the image of the evil which is foreseen by opinion. It is this affection that reason commands us to annihilate, and whose occurrence even we are to forestall, because when this affection occurs, the soul is sick, and healthy when it does no occur. In the latter case, none of these images, which are the causes of affections, form within the soul. That is why, to free oneself from the images that obsess one during dreams, the soul that occupies herself therewith is to be wakened. Again, that is why we can say that affections are produced by representations of exterior entities, considering these representations as affections of the soul.


But what do we mean by “purifying the soul,” inasmuch as she could not possibly be stained? What do we mean by separating (or, weaning) the soul from the body? To purify the soul is to isolate her, preventing her from attaching herself to other things, from considering them, from receiving opinions alien to her, whatever these (alien) opinions or affections might be, as we have said; it consequently means hindering her from consideration of these phantoms, and from the production of their related affections. To “purify the soul,” therefore, consists in raising her from the things here below to intelligible entities; also, it is to wean her from the body; for, in that case, she is no longer sufficiently attached to the body to be enslaved to it, resembling a light which is not absorbed in the whirlwind (of matter), though even in this case that part of the soul which is submerged does not, on that account alone, cease being impassible. To purify the affective part of the soul is to turn her from a vision of deceitful images; to separate her from the body, is to hinder her from inclining towards lower things, or from representing their images to herself; it means annihilating the things from which she thus is separated, so that she is no longer choked by the whirlwind of the spirit which breaks loose whenever the body is allowed to grow too strong; the latter must be weakened so as to govern it more easily.



6. We have sufficiently demonstrated the impassibility of intelligible “being” which is entirely comprised within the genus of form. But as matter also, though in another manner, is an incorporeal entity, we must examine its nature also. We must see whether it may be affected, and undergo every kind of modification, as is the common opinion; or whether, on the contrary, it be impassible; and in this case, what is the nature of its impassibility.


Since we are thus led to treat of the nature of matter, we must first premiss that the nature of existence, “being” and essence are not what they are thought to be by people generally. Existence is; it “is” in the genuine meaning of that word; that is, it “is” essentially; it is absolutely, lacking nothing of existence. Fully being existence, its existence and preservation are not dependent on anything else; so much the more, if other things seem to be, they owe this thereto. If this be true, existence must possess life, perfect life—for otherwise it would not be existence any more than non-existence. Now perfect life is intelligence and perfect wisdom. Existence therefore is determinate and definite. Nothing outside of it exists even potentially; otherwise it would not fully satisfy itself. It is therefore eternal, immutable, incapable of receiving anything, or of adding anything to itself; for what it would receive would have to be foreign to it, and consequently be nonentity. In order to exist by itself, existence must therefore possess all things within itself; it must be all things simultaneously, it must at the same time be one and all, since this is of what we consider existence to consist; otherwise instead of emanating from existence, intelligence and life would be incidental thereto. Therefore they could not originate from nonentity; and, on its side, existence could not be deprived of intelligence and life. True nonentity, therefore, will have intelligence and life only as they must exist in objects inferior and posterior to existence. The principle superior to existence (the One), on the other hand, gives intelligence and life to existence, without itself needing to possess them.


If such be the nature of existence, it could be neither body, nor the substrate of bodies; for their existence is nonentity. (Materialists, however, object), How could we refuse to attribute “being” to the nature of bodies, such as these cliffs and rocks, to the solid earth, and in short, to all these impenetrable objects? When I am struck, am I not by the shock forced to acknowledge that these objects exist as (real) “being”? On the other hand, how does it happen that entities that are not impenetrable, which can neither shock others nor be shocked by them, which are completely invisible, like soul and intelligence, are genuine beings? Our answer is that the earth, which possesses corporeal nature in the highest degree, is inert; the element that is less gross (the air) is already more mobile, and resides in a higher region; while fire withdraws still more from corporeal nature. The things which best suffice themselves least agitate and trouble the others; those that are heavier and more terrestrial, by the mere fact that they are incomplete, subject to falling, and incapable of rising, fall by weakness, and shock the others by virtue of their inertia, and their weight. Thus inanimate bodies fall more heavily, and shock and wound others more powerfully. On the contrary, animated bodies, by the mere fact of greater participation in existence, strike with less harshness. That is why movement, which is a kind of life, or at least an image of life, exists in a higher degree in things that are less corporeal.


It is therefore an “eclipse of existence” which renders an object more corporeal. While studying those psychoses called affections, we discover that the more corporeal an object is, the more is it likely to be affected; the earth is more so than other elements, and so on. Indeed, when other elements are divided, they immediately reunite their parts, unless there be some opposition; but when we separate parts of earth, they do not come together again. They thus seem to have no natural earth; since, after a light blow, they remain in the state where they are left by the blow that struck or broke them. Therefore the more corporeal a thing is, the more it approaches nonentity, returning to unity with the greater difficulty. The heavy and violent blows by which bodies act on each other are followed by destruction. When even a weak thing falls on something weak, it may still be relatively powerful; as is nonentity hitting nonentity.


Such are the objections that may be raised against those who consider all beings as corporeal; who wish to judge of their existence only by impressions they receive therefrom, and who try to found the certitude of truth on the images of sensation. They resemble sleeping men who take as realities the visions they have in their dreams. Sensation is the dream of the soul; so long as the soul is in the body, she dreams; the real awakening of the soul consists in genuine separation from the body, and not in rising along with the body. To rise with the body is to pass from one sleep into another kind; from one bed to another; really to awake is to separate oneself completely from the body. The body, whose nature is contrary to that of the soul, consequently has a nature contrary to that of “being.” This is proved by the generation, flux, and decay of bodies, all processes contrary to the nature of “being.”


7. Let us return to matter as a substrate, and then to what is said to exist within it. This will lead us to see that it consists of nonentity, and that it is impassible. Matter is incorporeal because the body exists only as posterior thereto, because it is a composite of which it constitutes an element. It is called incorporeal because existence and matter are two things equally distinct from the body. Not being soul, matter is neither intelligence, nor life, nor (“seminal) reason,” nor limit. It is a kind of infinity. Neither is it an (active) power; for what could it produce? Since matter is none of the above-mentioned things, it could not be called existence. It deserves only the name “nonentity” yet not even in the sense in which we may say that movement or rest are not existence; matter is real nonentity. It is an image and phantom of extension, it is aspiration to a form of hypostatic existence. Its perseverance is not in rest (but in change). By itself, it is invisible, it escapes whoever wishes to see it. It is present when you do not look at it, it escapes the eye that seeks it. It seems to contain all the contraries: the large and small, the more and the less, the lack and excess. It is a phantom equally incapable of remaining or escaping; for matter does not even have the strength of avoiding (form), because it has received no strength from intelligence, and it is the lack of all existence. Consequently, all its appearances are deceptions. If we represent matter as being greatness, it immediately appears as smallness; if we represent it as the more, we are forced to recognize it as the less. When we try to conceive of its existence, it appears as nonentity; like all the things it contains, it is a fugitive shadow, and a fleeting game, an image within an image. It resembles a mirror, in which one might see the reflections of objects external to it; the mirror seems to be filled, and to possess everything, though really containing nothing.


Thus matter is a shapeless image, into which enter, and out of which issue the images of beings. These appear in it precisely because matter has no shape, though they seem to produce something in it, they really produce nothing in it. They have no consistence, strength, nor solidity; as matter has none either, they enter into it without dividing it, as if they would penetrate water, or as shapes might move in emptiness. If the images that appear in matter had the same nature as the objects they represent and from which they emanate, then, if we attribute to the images a little of the power of the objects that project them, we might be right in considering them able to affect matter. But as the things that we see in matter do not have the same nature as the objects of which they are the images, it is not true that matter suffers when receiving them; they are no more than false appearances without any resemblance to what produces them. Feeble and false by themselves, they enter into a thing that is equally false. They must therefore leave it as impassible as a mirror, or water; producing on it no more effect than does a dream on the soul. These comparisons, however, are yet imperfect, because in these cases there is still some resemblance between the images and the objects.


8. (According to Aristotle), it is absolutely necessary that what can be affected must have powers and qualities opposed to the things that approach it, and affect it. Thus, it is the cold that alters the heat of an object, and humidity that alters its dryness, and we say that the substrate is altered, when it ceases being hot, and grows cold; and ceasing to be dry, becomes humid. Another proof of this truth is the destruction of the fire that, by changing, becomes another element. Then we say that it is the fire, but not the matter that has been destroyed. What is affected is therefore that which is destroyed; for it is always a passive modification that occasions destruction. Consequently being destroyed and being affected are inseparable notions. Now it is impossible for matter to be destroyed; for how could it be destroyed, and in what would it change?


It may be objected that matter receives heat, cold, and numerous, or even innumerable qualities; it is characterized by them, it possesses them as somehow inherent in its nature, and mingled with each other, as they do not exist in isolated condition. How could nature avoid being affected along with them, serving as it does as a medium for the mutual action of these qualities by their mixture? If matter is to be considered impassible, we shall have to consider it as somehow outside of these qualities. But every quality which is present in a subject cannot be present in it without communicating to it something of itself.


9. It must be noticed that the expressions: “such a thing is present to such a thing” and “such a thing is in such other thing” have several meanings. Sometimes one thing improves or deteriorates some other thing by its presence, making it undergo a change; as may be seen in bodies, especially those of living beings. Again, one thing improves or deteriorates another without affecting it; this occurs with the soul, as we have already seen. Again, it is as when one impresses a figure on a piece of wax; the presence of the figure adds nothing to the (nature) of the wax, and its destruction makes it lose nothing. Likewise, light does not change the figure of the object which it enlightens with its rays. A cooled stone participates a little in the nature characteristic of the thing that cools it; but none the less remains stone. What suffering can light inflict on a line or a surface? One might perhaps say that in this case corporeal substance is affected; but how can it suffer (or be affected) by the action of light? Suffering, in fact, is not to enjoy the presence of something, nor to receive something. Mirrors, and, in general, transparent things, do not suffer (or are not affected) by the effect of images that form in them, and they offer a striking example of the truth we are here presenting. Indeed, qualities inhere in matter like simple images, and matter itself is more impassible than a mirror. Heat and cold occur in it without warming or cooling it; for heating and cooling consist in that one quality of the substrate gives place to another. In passing, we might notice that it would not be without interest to examine whether cold is not merely absence of heat. On entering into matter, qualities mostly react on each other only when they are opposite. What action, indeed, could be exercised by a smell on a sweet taste? By a color on a figure? How, in general, could things that belong to one genus act on another? This shows how one quality can give place to another in a same subject, or how one thing can be in another, without its presence causing any modification in the subject for which or in which it is present. Just as a thing is not altered by the first comer, likewise that which is affected and which changes does not receive a passive modification, or change, from any kind of an object. Qualities are affected only by the action of contraries. Things which are simply different cause no change in each other. Those which have no contraries could evidently not be modified by the action of any contrary. That which is affected, therefore, can not be matter; it must be a composite (of form and matter), or something multiple. But that which is isolated or separated from the rest, what is quite simple must remain impassible in respect of all things, and remain as a kind of medium in which other things may act on each other. Likewise, within a house, several objects can shock each other without the house itself or the air within it being affected. It is therefore qualities gathered in matter that act on each other, so far as it belongs to their nature. Matter itself, however, is still far more impassible than the qualities are among each other, when they do not find themselves opposite.


10. If matter could be affected, it would have to preserve some of the affection, retaining either the affection itself, or remain in a state different from the one in which it was before it was affected. But when one quality appears after another quality, it is no longer matter that receives it, but matter as determined by a quality. If even this quality should evanesce, though leaving some trace of itself by the action it has exercised, the substrate will still more be altered; proceeding thus it will come to be something entirely different from pure matter, it will be something multiple by its forms and by its manners of existence. It will no longer be the common receptacle of all things, since it will contain an obstacle to many things that could happen to it; matter would no longer subsist within it, and would no longer be incorruptible. Now if, by definition, matter always remains what it was since its origin, namely “matter,” then, if we insist that it be altered, it is evident that matter no longer remains such. Moreover, if everything that is altered must remain unchanged in kind, so as not to be changed in itself, though changed in accidents; in one word, if that which is changed must be permanent, and if that which is permanent be not that which is affected, we come to a dilemma; either matter is altered, and abandons its nature; or it does not abandon its nature, and is not changed. If we say that matter is changed, but not in so far as it is matter, it will, to begin with, be impossible to state in what it is changed; and further, we would thereby be forced to insist it was not changed. Indeed, just as other things, which are forms, cannot be changed in their “being” (or, nature), because it is this very unalterability which constitutes their “being” (or, nature), likewise, as the “being” (or, nature) of matter is to exist in so far as it is matter, it cannot be altered in so far as it is matter, and it must necessarily be permanent in this respect. Therefore if form be unalterable, matter must be equally unalterable.


11. This was no doubt the thought present to Plato when he rightly said, “These imitations of the eternal beings which enter into matter, and which issue therefrom.” Not without good reason did he employ the terms “enter” and “issue”; he wanted us carefully to scrutinize the manner in which matter participates in ideas. When Plato thus tries to clear up how matter participates in ideas, his object is to show, not how ideas enter into matter, as before so many have believed, but their condition within it. Doubtless, it does seem astonishing that matter remains impassible in respect to the ideas that are present therein, while the things that enter in it are affected by each other. We nevertheless have to acknowledge that the things which enter into matter expel their predecessors, and that it is only the composite that is affected. Nevertheless it is not every kind of composite that is affected, but only that composite that happens to need the thing that was introduced or expelled, so that its constitution becomes defective by the absence of that (quality), or more complete by its presence. Nothing is added to the nature of matter, however, by the introduction of anything; the presence of that thing does not make matter what it is, and matter loses nothing by its absence; matter remains what it was since its origin. To be ornamented is to the interest of something that admits of order or ornament; it can receive that ornament without being changed, when it only puts it on, so to speak. But if this ornament penetrate into it as something that forms part of its nature, it then cannot receive it without being altered, without ceasing to be what it was before, as for instance, ceasing to be ugly; without, by that very fact, changing; without, for instance, becoming beautiful, though ugly before. Therefore if matter become beautiful, though before ugly, it ceases to be what it was before; namely, ugly; so that on being adorned it loses its nature, so much the more as it was ugly only accidentally. Being ugly enough to be ugliness itself, it could not participate in beauty; being bad enough to be badness itself, it could not participate in goodness. Therefore matter participates in the ideas without being affected; and consequently, this participation must operate in another manner; and, for instance, consist in appearance. This kind of participation solves the problem we had set ourselves; it enables us to understand how, while being evil, matter can aspire to the Good without ceasing to be what it was, in spite of its participation in the Good. Indeed if this participation operate in a manner such that matter remains without alteration, as we say, and if it always continue to be what it was, there is no reason to be surprised if, though being evil, it can participate in the Good; it does not swerve from its manner of existence. On one hand, as for her, this participation is unavoidable, it participates as long as it endures; on the other hand, as matter continues to be what it is, by virtue of the kind of participation which does not interfere with its nature, it undergoes no alteration on the part of the principle which gives it something; it always remains as bad as it was, because its nature persists. If matter really participated in the Good, if matter were really modified thereby, its nature would no longer be evil. Therefore, the statement that matter is evil is true enough if it be considered to imply that it is impassible in respect to Good; and this really amounts to saying that it is entirely impassible.


12. Plato agreed with this, and being persuaded that, by participation, matter does not receive form and shape, as would some substrate that should constitute a composite of things intimately united by their transformation, their mixture, and their common affections; in order to demonstrate the opposite, namely, that matter remains impassible while receiving forms, invented a most apposite illustration of a participation that operates without anything being affected (namely, that engravers, before using dies on the soft wax, clean them carefully). Almost any other kind of illustration would fail to explain how the substrate can remain the same in the presence of forms. While trying to achieve his purpose, Plato has raised many questions; he has besides applied himself to demonstrate that sense-objects are devoid of reality, and that a large part of their hypostatic substance is constituted by appearance. Plato demonstrates the permanence and identity of matter by showing that it is by the figures with which it is endued that matter affects animated bodies, without itself suffering any of their affections. He wishes to convince us that in being endued with these figures, matter undergoes neither affection nor alteration. Indeed, in the bodies that successively assume different figures, we may, relying on analogy, call the change of figures an alteration; but since matter has neither figure nor existence, how could we, even by analogy, call the presence of a figure an alteration? The only sure way of avoiding a misunderstanding in expression is to say that the substrate possesses nothing in the manner it is usually supposed to possess it. How then could it possess the things it contains, unless as a figure? Plato’s illustration means that matter is impassible, and that it contains the apparent presence of images which are not really present therein.


We must still further preliminarily insist on the impassibility of matter; for by using the usual terms we might be misled into wrongly thinking that matter could be affected. Thus Plato speaks of matter being set on fire, being wetted, and so forth, as if it received the shapes of air or water. However, Plato modifies the statement that “matter receives the shapes of air and water” by the statement that matter “is set on fire and wetted,” and he demonstrates that by receiving these shapes it nevertheless has none of its own, and that forms do not more than enter into it. This expression “matter is set on fire” must not be taken literally; it means only that matter becomes fire. Now to become fire is not the same thing as being set on fire; to be set on fire can achieve no more than what is different from fire, than what can be affected; for that which itself is a part of fire could not be set on fire. To insist on the opposite would amount to saying that metal itself formed a statue, or that fire itself spread into matter and set it on fire. The theory that a (“seminal) reason” had approached matter, forces us to question how this reason could have set matter on fire. The theory that a figure had approached matter would imply that that which is set on fire is already composed of two things (matter and a figure), and that these two entities form a single one. Although these two things would form a single one, they would not affect each other, and would act only on other entities. Nor would they even in this case act jointly; for one would effect no more than to hinder the other from avoiding (form). The theory that when the body is divided matter also must be divided, would have to answer the question, How could matter on being divided, escape the affection undergone by the composite (of form and matter)? On such a theory, one might even assert that matter was destroyed, and ask, Since the body is destroyed, why should not matter also be destroyed? What is affected and divided must be a quantity or magnitude. What is not a magnitude cannot experience the same modifications as a body. Therefore those who consider matter affectible would be forced to call it a body.


13. They would further have to explain in what sense they say that matter seeks to elude form. How can it be said to seek to elude the stones and the solid objects which contain it? For it would be irrational to say that it seeks to elude form at certain times, but not at others. If matter seeks to elude form voluntarily, why does it not elude form continuously? If necessity keep matter (within form), there can be no moment when it would not inhere in some form or other. The reason why matter is not always contained by the same form must not be sought for within matter, but in the forms that matter receives. In what sense then could it be said that matter eludes form? Does it always and essentially elude form? This would amount to saying that matter, never ceasing being itself, has form without ever having it. Otherwise, the statement would be meaningless. (Plato) says that matter is the “nurse and residence of generation.” If then matter be the nurse and residence of generation, it is evidently distinct from the latter. Only that which can be affected is within the domain of generation. Now as matter, being the nurse and residence of generation, exists before the latter, it must also exist before any alteration. Therefore to say that matter is the nurse and residence of generation is tantamount to saying that matter is impassible. The same meaning attaches to such other statements as that matter is that in which begotten things appear, and from which they issue, that matter is the (eternal) location, and place (of all generation).


When Plato, rightfully, calls matter “the location of forms,” he is not thereby attributing any passion to matter; he only indicates that matters go on in a different manner. How? Since matter, however, by its nature, cannot be any of the beings, and as it must flee from the “being” of all beings, and be entirely different from them—for (“seminal) reasons” are genuine beings—it must necessarily preserve its nature by virtue of this very difference. It must not only contain all beings, but also not appropriate what is their image; for this is that by which matter differs from all beings. Otherwise, if the images that fill a mirror were not transient, and if the mirror remained invisible, evidently we would believe that the things the mirror presents to us existed really. If then there be something in a mirror, that is that which sense-forms are in matter. If in a mirror there be nothing but appearance, then there is nothing in matter but appearance, recognizing that this appearance is the cause of the existence of beings, an existence in which the things that exist always really participate, and in which the things which do not really exist do not participate; for they could not be in the condition where they would be if they existed without the existence of existence in itself.


14. What! Would nothing exist (in the sense-world) if matter did not exist? Nothing! It is as with a mirror; remove it, and the images disappear. Indeed, that which by its nature is destined to exist in something else could not exist in that thing; now the nature of every image is to exist in something else. If the image were an emanation of the causes themselves, it could exist without being in anything else; but as these causes reside in themselves, so that their image may reflect itself elsewhere, there must be something else destined to serve as location for that which does not really enter into it; something which by its presence, its audacity, its solicitations, and by its indigence, should as it were forcibly obtain (what it desires), but which is deceived because it does not really obtain anything; so that it preserves its indigence, and continues to solicitate (satisfaction). As soon as Poverty exists, it ceaselessly “begs,” as a (well-known Platonic) myth tells us; that shows clearly enough that it is naturally denuded of all good. It does not ask to obtain all that the giver possesses; it is satisfied with the possession of some of it, thus revealing to us how much the images that appear in matter are different from real beings. Even the very name of Poverty, which is given to matter, indicates that it is insatiable. When Poverty is said to unite with Abundance, we do not mean that it unites with Existence or Fullness, but with a work of wonderful skill, namely, a thing that is nothing but specious appearance.


It is indeed impossible that that which is outside of existence should be completely deprived of it; for the nature of existence is to produce beings. On the other hand, absolute nonentity cannot mingle with existence. The result is something miraculous: matter participates in existence without really participating in it, and by approaching to it obtains something, though by its nature matter cannot unite with existence. It therefore reflects what it receives from an alien nature as echo reflects sound in places that are symmetrical and continuous. That is how things that do not reside in matter seem to reside in it, and to come from it.


If matter participated in the existence of genuine beings and received them within itself, as might easily be thought, that which would enter into it would penetrate deeply into matter; but evidently matter is not penetrated thereby, remaining unreceptive of any of it. On the contrary, matter arrests their “procession,” as echo arrests and reflects sound-waves, matter being only the “residence” (or, “jar” or vase) of the things that enter within it, and there mingle with each other. Everything takes place there as in the case of persons who, wishing to light fire from the rays of the sun, should place in front of these rays polished jars filled with water, so that the flame, arrested by the obstacles met within, should not be able to penetrate, and should concentrate on their outside. That is how matter becomes the cause of generation; that is how things occur within it.


15. The objects that concentrate the rays of the sun, are themselves visible, by receiving from the fire of sensation what takes fire in their hearth. They appear because the images that form themselves are around and near them, and touch each other, and finally because there are two limits in these objects. But when the (“seminal) reason” is in matter, it remains exterior to matter in an entirely different manner; it has a different nature. Here it is not necessary that there be two limits; matter and reason are strangers to each other by difference of nature, and by the difference between their natures that makes any mixture of them impossible. The cause that each remains in itself is that what enters into matter does not possess it, any more than matter possesses what enters into it. That is how opinion and imagination do not mingle in our soul, and each remains what it was, without entailing or leaving anything, because no mingling can occur. These powers are foreign to each other, not in that there is a mere juxtaposition, but because between them obtains a difference that is grasped by reason, instead of being seen by sight. Here imagination is a kind of phantom, though the soul herself be no phantom, and though she seem to accomplish, and though she really accomplish many deeds as she desires to accomplish them.

Thus imagination stands to the soul in about the same lation as (form) with matter. Nevertheless (imagination) does not hide the soul, whose operations often disarrange and disturb it. Never could imagination hide the soul entirely, even if imagination should penetrate the soul entirely, and should seem to veil it completely. Indeed, the soul contains operations and reasons contrary (to imagination), by which she succeeds in putting aside the phantoms that besiege her. But matter, being infinitely feebler than the soul, possesses none of the beings, either of the true or false, which characteristically belong to it. Matter has nothing that could show it off, being absolutely denuded of all things. It is no more than a cause of appearance for other things; it could never say, “I am here, or there!” If, starting from other beings, profound reasoning should succeed in discovering matter, it ultimately declares that matter is something completely abandoned by true beings; but as the things that are posterior to true beings themselves seem to exist, matter might, so to speak, be said to be extended in all these things, seeming both to follow them, and not to follow them.


16. The (“seminal) reason,” on approaching matter, and giving it the extension it desired, made of it a magnitude. The “reason” drew from itself the magnitude to give it to the matter, which did not possess it, and which did not, merely on that account, acquire size; otherwise the magnitude occurring within it would be magnitude itself. If we remove form from matter, the substrate that then remains neither seems nor is large (since magnitude is part of form). If what is produced in matter be a certain magnitude, as for instance a man or a horse, the magnitude characteristic of the horse disappears with the form of the horse. If we say that a horse cannot be produced except in a mass of determined size, and that this magnitude remained (when the form of the horse disappeared), we would answer that what would then remain would not be the magnitude characteristic of the horse, but the magnitude of mass. Besides, if this mass were fire or earth, when the form of fire or that of earth disappeared, the magnitude of the fire or of the earth would simultaneously disappear. Matter therefore possesses neither figure nor quantity; otherwise, it would not have ceased being fire to become something else, but, remaining fire, would never “become” fire. Now that it seems to have become as great as this universe, if the heavens, with all they contain were annihilated, all quantity would simultaneously disappear out of matter, and with quantity also the other inseparable qualities will disappear. Matter would then remain what it originally was by itself; it would keep none of the things that exist within it. Indeed, the objects that can be affected by the presence of contrary objects can, when the latter withdraw, keep some trace of them; but that which is impassible retains nothing; for instance, the air, when penetrated by the light, retains none of it when it disappears. That that which has no magnitude can become great is not any more surprising than that which has no heat can become hot. Indeed, for matter to be matter is something entirely different from its being magnitude; magnitude is as immaterial as figure. Of matter such as it really is we should say that it is all things by participation. Now magnitude forms part of what we call all things. As the bodies are composite, magnitude is there among the other qualities, without however being determinate therein. Indeed, the “reason” of the body also contains magnitude. On the contrary, matter does not even contain indeterminate magnitude, because it is not a body.


17. Neither is matter magnitude itself; for magnitude is a form, and not a residence; it exists by itself (for matter cannot even appropriate the images of beings). Not even in this respect, therefore, is matter magnitude. But as that which exists in intelligence or in the soul desired to acquire magnitude, it imparted to the things that desired to imitate magnitude by their aspiration or movement, the power to impress on some other object a modification analogous to their own. Thus magnitude, by developing in the procession of imagination, dragged along with itself the smallness of matter, made it seem large by extending it along with itself, without becoming filled by that extension. The magnitude of matter is a false magnitude, since matter does not by itself possess magnitude, and by extending itself along with magnitude, has shared the extension of the latter. Indeed as all intelligible beings are reflected, either in other things in general, or in one of them in particular, as each of them was large, the totality also is, in this manner, great (?). Thus the magnitude of each reason constituted a particular magnitude, as, for instance, a horse, or some other being. The image formed by the universal reflection of intelligible beings became a magnitude, because it was illuminated by magnitude itself. Every part of it became a special magnitude; and all things together seemed great by virtue of the universal form to which magnitude belongs. Thus occurred the extension of each thing towards each of the others, and towards their totality. The amount of this extension in form and in mass necessarily depended on the power, that transformed what in reality was nothing to an appearance of being all things. In the same manner color, that arose out of what is not color, and quality, that arose out of what is not quality, here below were referred to by the same name as the intelligible entities (of which they are the images). The case is similar for magnitude, which arose out of that which has none, or at least out of that magnitude that bears the same name (as intelligible magnitude).


Sense-objects, therefore, occupy a rank intermediary between matter and form itself. They no doubt appear, because they are derived from intelligible entities; but they are deceptive, because the matter in which they appear does not really exist. Each of them becomes a magnitude, because it is extended through the power of the entities that appear here below, and which locate themselves here. Thus we have, in every direction, the production of an extension; and that without matter undergoing any violence, because (potentially) it is all things. Everything produces its own extension by the power it derives from the intelligible entities. What imparts magnitude to matter is the appearance of magnitude, and it is this appearance that forms our earthly magnitude. Matter yields itself everywhere entirely to the extension it thus, by the universal appearance of magnitude, is forced to take on. Indeed, by its nature, matter is the matter of everything, and consequently is nothing determinate. Now that which is nothing determinate by itself could become its opposite (of what it is), and even after thus having become its own opposite, it is not yet really this opposite; otherwise this opposite would be its nature.


18. Let us now suppose that a conception of magnitude were possessed by some being which would have the power not only to be in itself, but also to produce itself externally; and that it should meet a nature (such as matter) that was incapable of existing within intelligence, of having a form, of revealing any trace of real magnitude, or any quality. What would such a being do with such a power? It would create neither a horse nor an ox; for other causes (the “seminal) reasons” would produce them. Indeed, that which proceeds from magnitude itself cannot be real magnitude; it must therefore be apparent magnitude. Thus, since matter has not received real magnitude, all it can do is to be as great as its nature will permit; that is, to seem great. To accomplish that, it must not fail anywhere; and, if it be extended, it cannot be a discrete quantity, but all its parts must be united, and absent in no place. Indeed, it was impossible for a small mass to contain an image of magnitude that would equal the real magnitude, since it is only an image of magnitude; but, carried away with the hope of achieving the magnitude to which it aspired, this image extended to its limit, along with matter, which shared its extension because matter could not follow it. That is how this image of magnitude magnified what was not great, without however making it seem really great, and produced the magnitude that appears in its mass. None the less does matter preserve its nature, though it be veiled by this apparent magnitude, as if by a garment with which it covered itself when it followed the magnitude that involved it in its extension. If matter ever happened to be stripped of this garment, it would nevertheless remain what itself was before; for it possesses magnitude only in so far as form by its presence makes it great.


As the soul possesses the forms of beings, and as she herself is a form, she possesses all things simultaneously. Containing all the forms, and besides seeing the forms of sense-objects turning towards her, and approaching her, she is not willing to accept them, along with their manifoldness. She considers them only after making abstractions of their mass; for the soul could not become other than she is. But as matter does not have the strength to resist, possessing as it does no special characteristic activity, and being no more than an adumbration, matter yields to everything that active power proposes to inflict on it. Besides, that which proceeds from intelligible (nature) possesses already a trace of what is to be produced in matter. That is how discursive reason which moves within the sphere of representative imagination, or the movement produced by reason, implies division; for if reason remained within unity and identity, it would not move, but remain at rest. Besides, not as the soul does, can matter receive all forms simultaneously; otherwise it would be a form. As it must contain all things, without however containing them in an indivisible manner, it is necessary that, serving as it does as location for all things, it should extend towards all of them, everywhere offering itself to all of them, avoiding no part of space, because it is not restricted within any boundary of space, and because it is always ready to receive what is to be. How then does it happen that one thing, on entering into matter, does not hinder the entrance of other things, which, however, cannot co-exist with the former thing? The reason is that matter is not a first principle. Otherwise, it would be the very form of the universe. Such a form, indeed, would be both all things simultaneously, and each thing in particular. Indeed the matter of the living being is divided as are the very parts of the living being; otherwise nothing but reason would exist.


19. When things enter into the matter that plays the part of mother to them, they neither hurt it, nor give it pleasure. Their blows are not felt by matter; they direct their blows only against each other, because the powers act upon their opposites, and not on their substrates, unless indeed we consider the substrates as united to the things they contain. Heat makes cold disappear, as whiteness affects blackness; or, if they mingle, they produce a new quality by their mixture. What is affected is the things that mingle, and their being affected consists in ceasing to be what they were. Among animate beings, it is the body that is affected by the alteration of the qualities, and of the forces possessed. When the qualities constitutive of these beings are destroyed, or when they combine, or when they undergo some change contrary to their nature, the affections relate to the body, as the perceptions do to the soul. The latter indeed knows all the affections that produce a lively impression. Matter, however, remains what it is; it could not be affected when it ceases to contain heat or cold, since neither of these qualities is either characteristic or foreign. The name that best characterizes matter, therefore, is nurse or residence. But in what sense could matter, that begets nothing, be called “mother”? Those who call it such consider a mother as playing the part of mere matter, towards her child, merely receiving the germ, without contributing anything of itself, because the body of the child owes its growth to nourishment. If however the mother does contribute anything (to the formation of the child) she then plays the part of form, and does not restrict herself to the part of matter. Indeed, the form alone is fruitful, while the “other nature” (that is, matter), is unfruitful.


That no doubt was the meaning of those ancient sages who in mysteries and initiations symbolically represented the “ancient Hermes” with the generative organ in erection, to teach that it is intelligible reason that begets sense-objects. On the other hand, these same sages signify the sterility of matter, condemned to perpetual self-identity, by the eunuchs who surround Rhea, making of it the mother of all things, to use the expression they employ in designating the principle that plays the part of substrate.


That name indicates the difference between matter and a mother. To those who, refusing to be satisfied with superficialities, insist on thoroughness, they thus signified in as precise a manner as possible (without lifting the veil of) obscurity, that matter was sterile, although feminine also to extent at least that matter receives, without contributing to, the act of generation. They indicated it by this, that the (Galli) who surround Cybele are not women, but neither are they men, possessing no power of generation; for by castration they have lost a faculty that is characteristic only of a man whose virility is intact.

Ennead 3.7. Of Time and Eternity.



(1.) When saying that eternity and time differ, that eternity refers to perpetual existence, and time to what “becomes” (this visible world), we are speaking off-hand, spontaneously, intuitionally, and common language supports these forms of expression. When however we try to define our conceptions thereof in greater detail, we become embarrassed; the different opinions of ancient philosophers, and often even the same opinions, are interpreted differently. We however shall limit ourselves to an examination of these opinions, and we believe that we can fulfill our task of answering all questions by explaining the teachings of the ancient philosophers, without starting any minute disquisition of our own. We do indeed insist that some of these ancient philosophers, these blessed men have achieved the truth. It remains only to decide which of them have done so, and how we ourselves can grasp their thought.


First, we have to examine that of which eternity consists, according to those who consider it as different from time; for, by gaining a conception of the model (eternity), we shall more clearly understand its image called time. If then, before observing eternity, we form a conception of time, we may, by reminiscence, from here below, rise to the contemplation of the model to which time, as its image, resembles.


1. (2). How shall we define the æon (or, eternity)? Shall we say that it is the intelligible “being” (or, nature) itself, just as we might say that time is the heaven and the universe, as has been done, it seems, by certain (Pythagorean) philosophers? Indeed, as we conceive and judge that the æon (eternity) is something very venerable, we assert the same of intelligible “being,” and yet it is not easy to decide which of the two should occupy the first rank; as, on the other hand, the principle which is superior to them (the One) could not be thus described, it would seem that we would have the right to identify intelligible “being” (or, nature), and the æon (or, eternity), so much the more as the intelligible world and the æon (age, or eternity), comprise the same things. Nevertheless, were we to place one of these principles within the other, we would posit intelligible nature (“being”) within the æon (age, or eternity). Likewise, when we say that an intelligible entity is eternal, as (Plato) does: “the nature of the model is eternal,” we are thereby implying that the æon (age or eternity) is something distinct from intelligible nature (“being”), though referring thereto, as attribute or presence. The mere fact that both the æon (eternity) and intelligible nature (“being”), are both venerable does not imply their identity; the venerableness of the one may be no more than derivative from that of the other. The argument that both comprise the same entities would still permit intelligible nature (“being”) to contain all the entities it contains as parts, while the æon (or age, or eternity) might contain them as wholes, without any distinctions as parts; it contains them, in this respect, that they are called eternal on its account.


Some define eternity as the “rest” of intelligible nature (“being”), just like time is defined as “motion” here below. In this case we should have to decide whether eternity be identical with rest in general, or only in such rest as would be characteristic of intelligible nature (“being”). If indeed eternity were to be identified with rest in general, we would first have to observe that rest could not be said to be eternal, any more than we can say that eternity is eternal, for we only call eternal that which participates in eternity; further, under this hypothesis, we should have to clear up how movement could ever be eternal; for if it were eternal, it would rest (or, it would stop). Besides, how could the idea of rest thus imply the idea of perpetuity, not indeed of that perpetuity which is in time, but of that of which we conceive when speaking of the æonial (or, eternal)? Besides, if the rest characteristic of intelligible “being” in itself alone contain perpetuity, this alone would exclude from eternity the other genera (or categories) of existence. Further yet, eternity has to be conceived of as not only in rest, but (according to Plato) also in unity, which is something that excludes every interval—otherwise, it would become confused with time;—now rest does not imply the idea of unity, nor that of an interval. Again, we assert that eternity resides in unity; and therefore participates in rest without being identified therewith.


2. (3). What then is that thing by virtue of which the intelligible world is eternal and perpetual? Of what does perpetuity consist? Either perpetuity and eternity are identical, or eternity is related to perpetuity. Evidently, however, eternity consists in an unity, but in an unity formed by multiple elements, in a conception of nature derived from intelligible entities, or which is united to them, or is perceived in them, so that all these intelligible entities form an unity, though this unity be at the same time manifold in nature and powers. Thus contemplating the manifold power of the intelligible world, we call “being” its substrate; movement its life; rest its permanence; difference the manifoldness of its principles; and identity, their unity. Synthesizing these principles, they fuse into one single life, suppressing their difference, considering the inexhaustible duration, the identity and immutability of their action, of their life and thought, for which there is neither change nor interval. The contemplation of all these entities constitutes the contemplation of eternity; and we see a life that is permanent in its identity, which ever possesses all present things, which does not contain them successively, but simultaneously; whose manner of existence is not different at various times, but whose perfection is consummate and indivisible. It therefore contains all things at the same time, as in a single point, without any of them draining off; it resides in identity, that is, within itself, undergoing no change. Ever being in the present, because it never lost anything, and will never acquire anything, it is always what it is. Eternity is not intelligible existence; it is the (light) that radiates from this existence, whose identity completely excludes the future and admits nothing but present existence, which remains what it is, and does not change.


What that it does not already possess could (intelligible existence) possess later? What could it be in the future, that it is not now? There is nothing that could be added to or subtracted from its present state; for it was not different from what it is now; and it is not to possess anything that it does not necessarily possess now, so that one could never say of it, “it was”; for what did it have that it does not now have? Nor could it be said of it, “it will be”; for what could it acquire? It must therefore remain what it is. (As Plato thought), that possesses eternity of which one cannot say either “it was,” or “will be,” but only, “it is;” that whose existence is immutable, because the past did not make it lose anything, and because the future will not make it acquire anything. Therefore, on examining the existence of intelligible nature, we see that its life is simultaneously entire, complete, and without any kind of an interval. That is the eternity we seek.


3. (4). Eternity is not an extrinsic accident of (intelligible) nature, but is in it, of it, and with it. We see that it is intimately inherent in (intelligible nature) because we see that all other things, of which we say that they exist on high, are of and with this (intelligible) nature; for the things that occupy the first rank in existence must be united with the first Beings, and subsist there. Thus the beautiful is in them, and comes from them; thus also does truth dwell in them. There the whole in a certain way exists within the part; the parts also are in the whole; because this whole, really being the whole, is not composed of parts, but begets the parts themselves, a condition necessary to its being a whole. In this whole, besides, truth does not consist in the agreement of one notion with another, but is the very nature of each of the things of which it is the truth. In order, really to be a whole, this real whole must be all not only in the sense that it is all things, but also in the sense that it lacks nothing. In this case, nothing will, for it, be in the future; for to say that, for it, something “will be” for it implies that it lacked something before that, that it was not yet all; besides, nothing can happen to it against nature, because it is impassible. As nothing could happen to it, for it nothing “is to be,” “will be,” or “has been.”


As the existence of begotten things consists in perpetually acquiring (something or another), they will be annihilated by a removal of their future. An attribution of the future to the (intelligible) entities of a nature contrary (to begotten things), would degrade them from the rank of existences. Evidently they will not be consubstantial with existence, if this existence of theirs be in the future or past. The nature (“being”) of begotten things on the contrary consists in going from the origin of their existence to the last limits of the time beyond which they will no longer exist; that is in what their future consists. Abstraction of their future diminishes their life, and consequently their existence. That is also what will happen to the universe, in so far as it will exist; it aspires to being what it should be, without any interruption, because it derives existence from the continual production of fresh actualizations; for the same reason, it moves in a circle because it desires to possess intelligible nature (“being”). Such is the existence that we discover in begotten things, such is the cause that makes them ceaselessly aspire to existence in the future. The Beings that occupy the first rank and which are blessed, have no desire of the future, because they are already all that it lies in them to be, and because they possess all the life they are ever to possess. They have therefore nothing to seek, since there is no future for them; neither can they receive within themselves anything for which there might be a future. Thus the nature (“being”) of intelligible existence is absolute, and entire, not only in its parts, but also in its totality, which reveals no fault, which lacks nothing, and to which nothing that in any way pertains to nonentity could be added; for intelligible existence must not only embrace in its totality and universality all beings, but it must also receive nothing that pertains to nonentity. It is this disposition and nature of intelligible existence that constitutes the æon (or eternity); for (according to Aristotle) this word is derived from “æi on,” “being continually.”


4. (5). That this is the state of affairs appears when, on applying one’s intelligence to the contemplation of some of the intelligible Entities, it becomes possible to assert, or rather, to see that it is absolutely incapable of ever having undergone any change; otherwise, it would not always exist; or rather, it would not always exist entirely. Is it thus perpetual? Doubtless; its nature is such that one may recognize that it is always such as it is, and that it could never be different in the future; so that, should one later on again contemplate it, it will be found similar to itself (unchanged). Therefore, if we should never cease from contemplation, if we should ever remain united thereto while admiring its nature, and if in that actualization we should show ourselves indefatigable, we would succeed in raising ourselves to eternity; but, to be as eternal as existence, we must not allow ourselves to be in anyway distracted from contemplating eternity, and eternal nature in the eternal itself. If that which exists thus be eternal, and exists ever, evidently that which never lowers itself to an inferior nature; which possesses life in its fullness, without ever having received, receiving, or being about to receive anything; this nature would be “aidion,” or perpetual. Perpetuity is the property constitutive of such a substrate; being of it, and in it. Eternity is the substrate in which this property manifests. Consequently reason dictates that eternity is something venerable, identical with the divinity. We might even assert that the age (“aion,” or eternity) is a divinity that manifests within itself, and outside of itself in its immutable and identical existence, in the permanence of its life. Besides, there is nothing to surprise any one if in spite of that we assert a manifoldness in the divinity. Every intelligible entity is manifoldness because infinite in power, infinite in the sense that it lacks nothing; it exercises this privilege peculiarly because it is not subject to losing anything.


Eternity, therefore, may be defined as the life that is at present infinite because it is universal and loses nothing, as it has no past nor future; otherwise it would no longer be whole. To say that it is universal and loses nothing explains the expression: “the life that is at present infinite.”


5. (6). As this nature that is eternal and radiant with beauty refers to the One, issues from Him, and returns to Him, as it never swerves from Him, ever dwelling around Him and in Him, and lives according to Him, Plato was quite right in saying not casually, but with great profundity of thought, that “eternity is immutable in unity.” Thereby Plato not only reduces the eternity to the unity that it is in itself, but also relates the life of existence to the One itself. This life is what we seek; its permanence is eternity. Indeed that which remains in that manner, and which remains the same thing, that is, the actualization of that life which remains turned towards, and united with the One, that whose existence and life are not deceptive, that truly is eternity. (For intelligible or) true existence is to have no time when it does not exist, no time when it exists in a different manner; it is therefore to exist in an immutable manner without any diversity, without being first in one, and then in another state. To conceive of (existence), therefore, we must neither imagine intervals in its existence, nor suppose that it develops or acquires, nor believe that it contains any succession; consequently we could neither distinguish within it, or assert within it either before or after. If it contain neither “before” nor “after,” if the truest thing that can be affirmed of it be that it is, if it exist as “being” and life, here again is eternity revealed. When we say that existence exists always, and that there is not one time in which it is, and another in which it is not, we speak thus only for the sake of greater clearness; for when we use the word “always,” we do not take it in an absolute sense; but if we use it to show that existence is incorruptible, it might well mislead the mind in leading it to issue out from the unity (characteristic of eternity) to make it run through the manifold (which is foreign to eternity). “Always” further indicates that existence is never defective. It might perhaps be better to say simply “existence.” But though the word “existence” suffices to designate “being,” as several philosophers have confused “being” with generation, it was necessary to clear up the meaning of existence by adding the term “always.” Indeed, though we are referring only to one and the same thing by “existence” and “existing always,” just as when we say “philosopher,” and “the true philosopher,” nevertheless, as there are false philosophers, it has been necessary to add to the term “philosophers” the adjective “true.” Likewise, it has been necessary to add the term “always” to that of “existing,” and that of “existing” to that of “always;” that is the derivation of the expression “existing always,” and consequently (by contraction), “aion,” or, eternity. Therefore the idea “always” must be united to that of “existing,” so as to designate the “real being.”


“Always” must therefore be applied to the power which contains no interval in its existence, which has need of nothing outside of what it possesses, because it possesses everything, because it is every being, and thus lacks nothing. Such a nature could not be complete in one respect, but incomplete in another. Even if what is in time should appear complete, as a body that suffices the soul appears complete, though it be complete only for the soul; that which is in time needs the future, and consequently is incomplete in respect to the time it stands in need of; when it succeeds in enjoying the time to which it aspires, and succeeds in becoming united thereto, even though it still remain imperfect it still is called perfect by verbal similarity. But the existence whose characteristic it is not to need the future, not to be related to any other time—whether capable of being measured, or indefinite, and still to be indefinite—the existence that already possesses all it should possess is the very existence that our intelligence seeks out; it does not derive its existence from any particular quality, but exists before any quantity. As it is not any kind of quantity, it could not admit within itself any kind of quantity. Otherwise, as its life would be divided, it would itself cease to be absolutely indivisible; but existence must be as indivisible in its life as in its nature (“being”). (Plato’s expression,) “the Creator was good” does indeed refer to the notion of the universe, and indicates that, in the Principle superior to the universe, nothing began to exist at any particular time. Never, therefore, did the universe begin to exist within time, because though its Author existed “before” it, it was only in the sense that its author was the cause of its existence. But, after having used the word “was,” to express this thought, Plato immediately corrects himself, and he demonstrates that this word does not apply to the Things that possess eternity.


6. (7). Speaking thus of eternity, it is not anything foreign to us, and we do not need to consult the testimony of anybody but ourselves. For indeed, how could we understand anything that we could not perceive? How could we perceive something that would be foreign to us? We ourselves, therefore, must participate in eternity. But how can we do so, since we are in time? To understand how one can simultaneously be in time and in eternity, it will be necessary to study time. We must therefore descend from eternity to study time. To find eternity, we have been obliged to rise to the intelligible world; now we are obliged to descend therefrom to treat of time; not indeed descending therefrom entirely, but only so far as time itself descended therefrom.



If those blessed ancient philosophers had not already uttered their views about time, we would only need to add to the idea of eternity what we have to say of the idea of time, and to set forth our opinion on the subject, trying to make it correspond with the already expressed notion of eternity. But we now must examine the most reasonable opinions that have been advanced about time, and observe how far our own opinion may conform thereto.


To begin with, we may divide the generally accepted opinions about time into three classes: time as movement, as something movable, or as some part of movement. It would be too contrary to the notion of time to try to define it as rest, as being at rest, or as some part of rest; for time is incompatible with identity (and consequently with rest, and with what is at rest). Those who consider time as movement, claim that it is either any kind of movement, or the movement of the universe. Those who consider it as something movable are thinking of the sphere of the universe; while those who consider time as some part of movement consider it either as the interval of movement, or as its measure, or as some consequence of movement in general, or regular movement.


7. (8). Time cannot (as the Stoics claim,) be movement. Neither can we gather together all movements, so as to form but a single one, nor can we consider the regular movement only; for these two kinds of motion are within time. If we were to suppose that there was a movement that did not operate within time, such a movement would still be far removed from being time, since, under this hypothesis, the movement itself is entirely different from that in which the movement occurs. Amidst the many reasons which, in past and present, have been advanced to refute this opinion, a single one suffices: namely, that movement can cease and stop, while time never suspends its flight. To the objection that the movement of the universe never stops, we may answer that this movement, if it consist in the circular movement (of the stars, according to Hestius of Perinthus; or of the sun, according to Eratosthenes) operates within a definite time, at the end of which it returns to the same point of the heavens, but it does not accomplish this within the same space of time taken up in fulfilling the half of its course. One of these movements is only half of the other, and the second is double. Besides, both, the one that runs through half of space, and the one that runs through the whole of it, are movements of the universe. Besides, it has been noticed that the movement of the exterior sphere is the swiftest. This distinction supports our view, for it implies that the movement of this sphere, and the time used to operate it, are different entities; the most rapid movement is the one that takes up the least time, and runs through the greatest amount of space; the slowest movements are those that employ the longest time, and run through only a part of that space.


On the other hand, if time be not the movement of the sphere, evidently it is far less (than that which is movable, as thought the Pythagoreans,) or (as Pythagoras thought), the sphere (of heaven) itself, as some have thought, because it moves. (This fact alone is sufficient to refute the opinion that confuses time with that which is movable).


Is time then some part of movement? (Zeno) calls it the interval of movement; but the interval is not the same for all movements, even if the latter were of similar nature; for movements that operate within space may be swifter or slower. It is possible that the intervals of the most rapid and of the slowest movement might be measured by some third interval, which might far more reasonably be considered time. But which of these three intervals shall be called time? Rather, which of all the intervals, infinite in number as they are, shall time be? If time be considered the interval of the regular movement, it will not be the particular interval of every regular movement; otherwise, as there are several regular movements, there would be several kinds of time. If time be defined as the interval of movement of the universe, that is, the interval contained within this movement, it will be nothing else than this movement itself.


Besides, this movement is a definite quantity. Either this quantity will be measured by the extension of the space traversed, and the interval will consist in that extension; but that extension is space, and not time. Or we shall say that movement has a certain interval because it is continuous, and that instead of stopping immediately it always becomes prolonged; but this continuity is nothing else than the magnitude (that is, the duration) of the movement. Even though after consideration of a movement it be estimated as great, as might be said of a “great heat”—this does not yet furnish anything in which time might appear and manifest; we have here only a sequence of movements which succeed one another like waves, and only the observed interval between them; now the sequence of movements forms a number, such as two or three; and the interval is an extension. Thus the magnitude of the movement will be a number, say, such as ten; or an interval that manifests in the extension traversed by the movement. Now the notion of time is not revealed herein, but we find only a quantity that is produced within time. Otherwise, time, instead of being everywhere, will exist only in the movement as an attribute in a substrate, which amounts to saying that time is movement; for the interval (of the movement) is not outside of movement, and is only a non-instantaneous movement. If then time be a non-instantaneous movement, just as we often say that some particular instantaneous fact occurs within time, we shall be forced to ask the difference between what is and what is not instantaneous. Do these things differ in relation to time? Then the persisting movement and its interval are not time, but within time.


Somebody might object that time is indeed the interval of movement, but that it is not the characteristic interval of movement itself, being only the interval in which movement exerts its extension, following along with it. All these terms lack definition. This (extension) is nothing else than the time within which the movement occurs. But that is precisely the question at issue, from the very start. It is as if a person who had been asked to define time should answer “time is the interval of the movement produced within time.” What then is this interval called time, when considered outside of the interval characteristic of movement? If the interval characteristic of time be made to consist in movement, where shall the duration of rest be posited? Indeed, for one object to be in motion implies that another (corresponding object) is at rest; now the time of these objects is the same, though for one it be the time of movement, and for the other the time of rest (as thought Strato). What then is the nature of this interval? It cannot be an interval of space, since space is exterior (to the movements that occur within it).


8. (9). Let us now examine in what sense it may be said (by Aristotle) that time is the number and measure of movement, which definition seems more reasonable, because of the continuity of movement. To begin with, following the method adopted with the definition of time as “the interval of movement,” we might ask whether time be the measure and number of any kind of movement. For how indeed could we give a numerical valuation of unequal or irregular movement. What system of numbering or measurement shall we use for this? If the same measure be applied to slow or to swift movement, in their case measure and number will be the same as the number ten applied equally to horses and oxen; and further, such measure might also be applied to dry and wet substances. If time be a measure of this kind, we clearly see that it is the measure of movements, but we do not discover what it may be in itself. If the number ten can be conceived as a number, after making abstraction of the horses it served to measure, if therefore a measure possess its own individuality, even while no longer measuring anything, the case must be similar with time, inasmuch as it is a measure. If then time be a number in itself, in what does it differ from the number ten, or from any other number composed of unities? As it is a continuous measure, and as it is a quantity, it might, for instance, turn out to be something like a foot-rule. It would then be a magnitude, as, for instance, a line, which follows the movement; but how will this line be able to measure what it follows? Why would it measure one thing rather than another? It seems more reasonable to consider this measure, not as the measure of every kind of movement, but only as the measure of the movement it follows. Then that measure is continuous, so far as the movement it follows itself continue to exist. In this case, we should not consider measure as something exterior, and separated from movement, but as united to the measured movement. What then will measure? Is it the movement that will be measured, and the extension that will measure it? Which of these two things will time be? Will it be the measuring movement, or the measuring extension? Time will be either the movement measured by extension, or the measuring extension; or some third thing which makes use of extension, as one makes use of a foot-rule, to measure the quantity of movement. But in all these cases, we must, as has already been noticed, suppose that movement is uniform; for unless the movement be uniform, one and universal, the theory that movement is a measure of any kind whatever will become almost impossible. If time be “measured movement,” that is, measured by quantity—besides granting that it at all needs to be measured—movement must not be measured by itself, but by something different. On the other hand, if movement have a measure different from itself, and if, consequently, we need a continuous measure to measure it, the result would be that extension itself would need measure, so that movement, being measured, may have a quantity which is determined by that of the thing according to which it is measured. Consequently, under this hypothesis, time would be the number of the extension which follows movement, and not extension itself which follows movement.


What is this number? Is it composed of unities? How does it measure? That would still have to be explained. Now let us suppose that we had discovered how it measures; we would still not have discovered the time that measures, but a time that was such or such an amount. Now that is not the same thing as time; there is a difference between time and some particular quantity of time. Before asserting that time has such or such a quantity, we have to discover the nature of that which has that quantity. We may grant that time is the number which measures movement, while remaining exterior thereto, as “ten” is in “ten horses” without being conceived with them (as Aristotle claimed, that it was not a numbering, but a numbered number). But in this case, we still have to discover the nature of this number that, before numbering, is what it is, as would be “ten” considered in itself. It may be said that it is that number which, by following number, measures according to the priority and posteriority of that movement. Nor do we yet perceive the nature of that number which measures by priority and posteriority. In any case, whatever measures by priority or posteriority, or by a present moment, or by anything else, certainly does measure according to time. Thus this number (?) which measures movement according to priority or posteriority, must touch time, and, to measure movement, be related thereto. Prior and posterior necessarily designate either different parts of space, as for instance the beginning of a stadium, or parts of time. What is called priority is time that ends with the present; what is called posteriority, is the time that begins at the present. Time therefore is something different from the number that measures movement according to priority or posteriority,—I do not say, any kind of movement, but still regular movement. Besides, why should we have time by applying number either to what measures, or to what is measured? For in this case these two may be identical. If movement exist along with the priority and posteriority which relate thereto, why will we not have time without number? This would amount to saying that extension has such a quantity only in case of the existence of somebody who recognizes that it possesses that quantity. Since (Aristotle) says that time is infinite, and that it is such effectually, how can it contain number without our taking a portion of time to measure it? From that would result that time existed before it was measured. But why could time not exist before the existence of a soul to measure it? (Aristotle) might have answered that it was begotten by the soul. The mere fact that the soul measures time need not necessarily imply that the soul produced the time; time, along with its suitable quantity, would exist even if nobody measured it. If however it be said that it is the soul that makes use of extension to measure time, we will answer that this is of no importance to determine the notion of time.


9. (10). When (Epicurus) says that time is a consequence of movement, he is not explaining the nature of time; this would demand a preliminary definition of the consequence of movement. Besides, this alleged consequence of movement—granting the possibility of such a consequence—must be prior, simultaneous, or posterior. For, in whatever way we conceive of it, it is within time. Consequently, if the consequence of movement be time, the result would be that time is a consequence of movement in time (which is nonsense).


Now, as our purpose is to discover, not what time is not, but what it really is, we notice that this question has been treated at great length by many thinkers before us; and if we were to undertake to consider all existing opinions on the subject, we would be obliged to write a veritable history of the subject. We have here, however, gone to the limit of our ability in treating it without specializing in it. As has been seen, it is easy enough to refute the opinion that time is the measure of the movement of the universe, and to raise against this opinion the objections that we have raised against the definition of time as the measure of movement in general, opposing thereto the irregularity of movement, and the other points from which suitable arguments may be drawn. We are therefore free to devote ourselves to an explanation of what time really is.


10. (11). To accomplish this we shall have to return to the nature which, as we pointed out above, was essential to eternity; that immutable life, wholly realized all at once, infinite and perfect, subsisting in, and referring to unity. Time was not yet, or at least, it did not yet exist for the intelligible entities. Only, it was yet to be born of them, because (as was the world), time, by both its reason and nature, was posterior to the (intelligible entities). Are we trying to understand how time issued from among intelligible entities while these were resting within themselves? Here it would be useless to call upon the Muses, for they did not yet exist. Still this might perhaps not be useless; for (in a certain sense, that time had already begun, then, so far as they existed within the sense-world) they existed already. In any case, the birth of time will be plain enough if we consider it only as it is born and manifested. Thus much can be said about it.


Before priority and posteriority, time, which did not yet exist, brooded within existence itself. But an active nature (the universal Soul), which desired to be mistress of herself, to possess herself, and ceaselessly to add to the present, entered into motion, as did time, along with (the Soul). We achieve a representation of the time that is the image of eternity, by the length that we must go through with to reach what follows, and is posterior, towards one moment, and then towards another.


As the universal Soul contained an activity that agitated her, and impelled her to transport into another world what she still saw on high, she was willing to retain all things that were present at the same time. (Time arose not by a single fiat, but as the result of a process. This occurred within the universal Soul, but may well be first illustrated by the more familiar process within) Reason, which distributes unity, not indeed That which remains within itself, but that which is exterior to itself. Though this process seem to be a strengthening one, reason developing out of the seed in which it brooded unto manifoldness, it is really a weakening (or destructive one), inasmuch as it weakened manifoldness by division, and weakened reason by causing it to extend. The case was similar with the universal Soul. When she produced the sense-world, the latter was animated by a movement which was only an image of intelligible movement. (While trying to strengthen) this image-movement to the extent of the intelligible movement, she herself (weakened), instead of remaining exclusively eternal, became temporal and (involuntarily) subjected what she had produced to the conditions of time, transferring entirely into time not only the universe, but also all its revolutions. Indeed, as the world moves within the universal Soul, which is its location, it also moves within the time that this Soul bears within herself. Manifesting her power in a varied and successive manner, by her mode of action, the universal Soul begat succession. Indeed, she passes from one conception to another, and consequently to what did not exist before, since this conception was not effective, and since the present life of the soul does not resemble her former life. Her life is varied, and from the variety of her life results the variety of time.


Thus, the extension of the life of the soul produces time, and the perpetual progression of her life produces the perpetuity of time, and her former life constitutes the past. We may therefore properly define time as the life of the soul considered in the movement by which she passes from one actualization to another.


We have already decided that eternity is life characterized by rest, identity, immutability and infinity (in intelligence). It is, further, (admitted that) this our world is the image of the superior World (of intelligence). We have also come to the conclusion that time is the image of eternity. Consequently, corresponding to the Life characteristic of Intelligence, this world must contain another life which bears the same name, and which belongs to that power of the universal Soul. Instead of the movement of Intelligence, we will have the movement characteristic of a part of the soul (as the universal Soul ceaselessly passes from one thought to another). Corresponding to the permanence, identity, and immutability (of Intelligence), we will have the mobility of a principle which ceaselessly passes from one actualization to another. Corresponding to the unity and the absence of all extension, we will have a mere image of unity, an image which exists only by virtue of continuity. Corresponding to an infinity already entirely present, we will have a progression towards infinity which perpetually tends towards what follows. Corresponding to what exists entirely at the same time, we will have what exists by parts, and what will never exist entire at the same time. The soul’s existence will have to be ceaseless acquiring of existence; if it is to reveal an image of the complete, universal and infinite existence of the soul; that is the reason its existence is able to represent the intelligible existence.


Time, therefore, is not something external to the soul, any more than eternity is exterior to existence. It is neither a consequence nor a result of it, any more than eternity is a consequence of existence. It appears within the soul, is in her and with her, as eternity is in and with existence.


11. (12). The result of the preceding considerations is that time must be conceived of as the length of the life characteristic of the universal Soul; that her course is composed of changes that are equal, uniform, and insensible, so that that course implies a continuity of action. Now let us for a moment suppose that the power of the Soul should cease to act, and to enjoy the life she at present possesses without interruption or limit, because this life is the activity characteristic of an eternal Soul, an action by which the Soul does not return upon herself, and does not concentrate on herself, though enabling her to beget and produce. Now supposing that the Soul should cease to act, that she should apply her superior part to the intelligible world, and to eternity, and that she should there remain calmly united—what then would remain, unless eternity? For what room for succession would that allow, if all things were immovable in unity? How could she contain priority, posteriority, or more or less duration of time? How could the Soul apply herself to some object other than that which occupies her? Further, one could not then even say that she applied herself to the subject that occupied her; she would have to be separated therefrom in order to apply herself thereto. Neither would the universal Sphere exist, since it does not exist before time, because it exists and moves within time. Besides, even if this Sphere were at rest during the activity of the Soul, we could measure the duration of her rest because this rest is posterior to the rest of eternity. Since time is annihilated so soon as the Soul ceases to act, and concentrates in unity, time must be produced by the beginning of the Soul’s motion towards sense-objects, by the Soul’s life. Consequently (Plato) says that time is born with the universe, because the Soul produced time with the universe; for it is this very action of the Soul which has produced this universe. This action constitutes time, and the universe is within time. Plato does indeed call the movements of the stars, time; but evidently only figuratively, as (Plato) subsequently says that the stars were created to indicate the divisions of time, and to permit us to measure it easily.


Indeed, as it was not possible to determine the time itself of the Soul, and to measure within themselves the parts of an invisible and uncognizable duration, especially for men who did not know how to count, the (world) Soul created day and night so that their succession might be the basis of counting as far as two, by the aid of this variety. Plato indicates that as the source of the notion of number. Later, observing the space of time which elapses from one dawn to another, we were able to discover an interval of time determined by an uniform movement, so far as we direct our gaze thereupon, and as we use it as a measure by which to measure time. The expression “to measure time” is premeditated, because time, considered in itself, is not a measure. How indeed could time measure, and what would time, while measuring, say? Would time say of anything, “Here is an extension as large as myself?” What indeed could be the nature of the entity that would speak of “myself”? Would it be that according to which quantity is measured? In this case, time would have to be something by itself, to measure without itself being a measure. The movement of the universe is measured according to time, but it is not the nature of time to be the measure of movement; it is such only accidentally; it indicates the quantity of movement, because it is prior to it, and differs from it. On the other hand, in the case of a movement produced within a determinate time, and if a number be added thereto frequently enough, we succeed in reaching the knowledge of how much time has elapsed. It is therefore correct to say that the movement of the revolution operated by the universal Sphere measures time so far as possible, by its quantity indicating the corresponding quantity of time, since it can neither be grasped nor conceived otherwise. Thus what is measured, that is, what is indicated by the revolution of the universal Sphere, is time. It is not begotten, but only indicated by movement.


The measure of movement, therefore, seems to be what is measured by a definite movement, but which is other than this movement. There is a difference, indeed, between that which is measured, and that which measures; but that which is measured is measured only by accident. That would amount to saying that what is measured by a foot-rule is an extension, without defining what extension in itself is. In the same way, because of the inability to define movement more clearly because of its indeterminate nature, we say that movement is that which is measured by space; for, by observation of the space traversed by movement, we can judge of the quantity of the movement.


12. (13). The revolution of the universal Sphere leads us therefore to the recognition of time, within which it occurs. Not only is time that in which (all things “become,” that is, grow), but time has to be what it is even before all things, being that within which everything moves, or rests with order and uniformity. This is discovered and manifested to our intelligence, but not produced by regular movement and rest, especially by movement. Better than rest, indeed, does movement lead us to a conception of time, and it is either to appreciate the duration of movement than that of rest. That is what led philosophers to define time as the measure “of” movement, instead of saying, what probably lay within their intention, that time is measured “by” movement. Above all, we must not consider that definition as adequate, adding to it that which the measured entity is in itself, not limiting ourselves to express what applies to it only incidentally. Neither did we ever discern that such was their meaning, and we were unable to understand their teachings as they evidently posited the measure in the measured entity. No doubt that which hindered us from understanding them was that they were addressing their teachings to learned (thinkers), or well prepared listeners, and therefore, in their writings, they failed to explain the nature of time considered in itself, whether it be measure or something measured.


Plato himself, indeed, does say, not that the nature of time is to be a measure or something measured, but that to make it known there is, in the circular movement of the universe, a very short element (the interval of a day), whose object is to demonstrate the smallest portion of time, through which we are enabled to discover the nature and quantity of time. In order to indicate to us its nature (“being”), (Plato) says that it was born with the heavens, and that it is the mobile image of eternity. Time is mobile because it has no more permanence than the life of the universal Soul, because it passes on and flows away therewith; it is born with the heavens, because it is one and the same life that simultaneously produces the heavens and time. If, granting its possibility, the life of the Soul were reduced to the unity (of the Intelligence), there would be an immediate cessation of time, which exists only in this life, and the heavens, which exist only through this life.


The theory that time is the priority and posteriority of this (earthly) movement, and of this inferior life, is ridiculous in that it would imply on one hand that (the priority and posteriority of this sense-life) are something; and on the other, refusing to recognize as something real a truer movement, which includes both priority and posteriority. It would, indeed, amount to attributing to an inanimate movement the privilege of containing within itself priority with posteriority, that is, time; while refusing it to the movement (of the Soul), whose movement of the universal Sphere is no more than an image. Still it is from the movement (of the Soul) that originally emanated priority and posteriority, because this movement is efficient by itself. By producing all its actualizations it begets succession, and, at the same time that it begets succession, it produces the passing from one actualization to another.


(Some objector might ask) why we reduce the movement of the universe to the movement of the containing Soul, and admit that she is within time, while we exclude from time the (universal) Soul’s movement, which subsists within her, and perpetually passes from one actualization to another? The reason is that above the activity of the Soul there exists nothing but eternity, which shares neither her movement nor her extension. Thus the primary movement (of Intelligence) finds its goal in time, begets it, and by its activity informs its duration.


How then is time present everywhere? The life of the Soul is present in all parts of the world, as the life of our soul is present in all parts of our body. It may indeed be objected, that time constitutes neither a hypostatic substance, nor a real existence, being, in respect to existence, a deception, just as we usually say that the expressions “He was” and “He will be” are a deception in respect to the divinity; for then He will be and was just as is that, in which, according to his assertion, he is going to be.

To answer these objections, we shall have to follow a different method. Here it suffices to recall what was said above, namely, that by seeing how far a man in motion has advanced, we can ascertain the quantity of the movement; and that, when we discern movement by walking, we simultaneously concede that, before the walking, movement in that man was indicated by a definite quantity, since it caused his body to progress by some particular quantity. As the body was moved during a definite quantity of time, its quantity can be expressed by some particular quantity of movement—for this is the movement that causes it—and to its suitable quantity of time. Then this movement will be applied to the movement of the soul, which, by her uniform action, produces the interval of time.


To what shall the movement of the (universal) Soul be attributed? To whatever we may choose to attribute it. This will always be some indivisible principle, such as primary Motion, which within its duration contains all the others, and is contained by none other; for it cannot be contained by anything; it is therefore genuinely primary. The same obtains with the universal Soul.


Is time also within us? It is uniformly present in the universal Soul, and in the individual souls that are all united together. Time, therefore, is not parcelled out among the souls, any more than eternity is parcelled out among the (Entities in the intelligible world) which, in this respect, are all mutually uniform.

Ennead 3.8. Of Nature, Contemplation and Unity.

[These three subjects are discussed in paragraphs 1–4, 5–7, and 8–16. The plain paragraph numbers are those of the Teubner edition; those in parenthesis are the Creuzer (Didot) edition.]



1. If as a preliminary pleasantry, we said that all beings, not only reasonable ones, but even the irrational, plants as well as the earth that begets them, aspire to contemplation, and are directed towards that end; that, as a result of the difference existing between them, some really achieve contemplation, while others only accomplish a reflection or image of it, we would no doubt be told that this was an absurd paradox. But as we are here engaged in a private study, we may, as an indulgence, support this paradox. While thus trifling, are we ourselves not actually engaging in contemplation? Besides, it would be not only we, but any who thus trifle, who aspire to contemplation. We might even say that a joking child, as well as a meditating man both aim at reaching contemplation when the former jokes, and the later meditates. Indeed, there is not a single action that does not tend towards contemplation; more or less externalizing it according as it is carried out strictly or freely. In any case its ultimate aim is always contemplation; but of this later.


(1). Let us begin by explaining what could be the nature of contemplation (thought) that we attribute to the earth, to the trees, and to the plants (as we promised), and how the things produced and begotten by these beings can be reduced to the actuality of contemplation; how nature, that is usually considered to lack reason and imagination, nevertheless is quite capable of some kind of contemplation, thereby producing all its works, although speaking strictly, it is incapable thereof.


2. Evidently nature possesses neither hands, nor feet, nor any natural or artificial instrument. For production its only need is a matter on which to work, and which it forms. The works of nature exclude all ideas of mechanical operation; not by any impelling force, nor by using levers nor machines does it produce varied colors, nor draw the outlines of objects. Even the workmen who form wax figures, to whose work the operations of nature are often compared, cannot endue objects with colors without borrowing them from elsewhere. Besides, we must observe that these workmen contain a power which remains immutable, and by the sole means of which they produce their works with their hands. Likewise, nature contains a power which remains immovable as a whole; it has no need of some parts that would remain immovable, and others that move. It is matter alone that undergoes movement, for the forming power is in no way moved. Were the forming power moved, it would no longer be the first motor; the first motor would no longer be nature, but whatever might, in its totality, be immovable.


It may be objected that the (“seminal) reason” may remain immutable, but that nature is distinct from reason, and is mutable. Considering the totality of nature, we include reason. Considering only one of its parts as immutable, this part still will be reason. Nature must be a form, and not a composite of matter and form. What need would it have of a matter that might be either cold or hot, since matter, when subjected to form, either possesses these qualities, or receives them, or rather undergoes the action of reason before having any qualities. Indeed, it is not by fire that matter becomes fire, but by reason. Consequently, in animals and plants, it is the “reasons” that produce; and nature is a reason that produces other reasons, imparting some of herself to the substance subjected to her influence, while remaining within herself. The reason that consists in a visible shape occupies the last rank; it is dead, and produces nothing. The living “reason” (which administers the body of the living being), being sister to the “reason” that produced the visible form (in begetting the body of the living being), and possessing the same power as this reason, alone produces within the begotten being.


3. (2). How does nature produce? And how, in producing, does she arrive at contemplation? Since she produces while remaining immovable within herself, and as she is a “reason,” she is a contemplation also. Indeed, every action is produced according to a “reason,” and consequently differs from it. Reason assists and presides over action, and consequently is not an action. Since reason is not an action, it is a contemplation. In universal Reason, the reason which holds the last rank itself proceeds from contemplation, and in this sense still deserves the name of contemplation because it is produced by the contemplation (of the soul). However universal Reason, which is superior to the latter reason, may be considered under two points of view, as soul and as nature. (Let us begin by nature.)


Does reason, considered as nature, also derive from contemplation? Yes, but on condition that it has contemplated itself somewhat; for it is produced by a contemplation and a principle which was contemplated. How does it contemplate itself? It does not possess this mode of contemplation which proceeds from (discursive) reason; that is to say, which consists in discursively considering what one has in himself. Being a living “reason” and a productive power, how could it fail discursively to consider what it contains? Because one considers discursively only what he does not yet possess. Now as nature possesses, she produces by the mere fact that she possesses. To be what she is and to produce what she produces are identical. Because she is “reason,” she simultaneously is contemplation and contemplated object. As she is all three: contemplation, contemplated object, and “reason,” nature produces by the mere fact that it is in her essence to be these things. As we have shown, evidently action is a sort of contemplation; for it is the result of the contemplation that remains immutable, which does nothing but contemplate, and which produces by its mere contemplation.


4. (3). If anybody were to ask nature why she produces, Nature, if at all willing to listen and answer would say, “You should not have questioned me; you should have tried to understand, keeping silence, as I do; for I am not in the habit of speaking. What were you to understand? Here it is. First, what is produced is the work of my silent speculation, a contemplation effected by my nature; for, myself being born of contemplation, mine is a contemplative nature. Besides, that which in me contemplates, produces a work of contemplation, like geometricians who, while contemplating, describe figures. For it is not in describing figures, but in contemplating, that I let drop from within me the lines which outline the forms of the bodies. I preserve within me the disposition of my mother (the universal Soul), and that of the principles that beget me (the formal ‘reasons’). The latter, indeed, are born of contemplation: I was begotten in the same way. These principles gave birth to me without any action, or the mere fact that they are more powerful reasons, and that they contemplate themselves.”


These words signify that nature is a soul begotten by a superior Soul that possesses a more potent life, and contains her contemplation silently within herself, without inclining towards that which is higher or lower. Abiding within her own essence (“being”) that is, within her own rest and self-consciousness, having discovered, so far as it was possible for her, what was below her, without going out of her way to seek it, nature produced an agreeable and brilliant object. If it is desired to attribute some sort of cognition or sensation to nature, these will resemble true cognition and sensation only as those of a man who is awake resemble those of a man who is asleep. For nature peaceably contemplates her object, which was born in her as effect of nature’s abiding within and with herself, of herself being an object of contemplation, and herself being a silent, if weak contemplation. There is, indeed, another power that contemplates more strongly; the nature which is the image of another contemplation. Consequently, what she has produced is very weak, because a weakened contemplation can beget a weak object only.


Likewise it is men too weak for speculation who, in action, seek a shadow of speculation and reason. Not being capable of rising to speculation, and because of their soul-weakness not being able to grasp that which in itself is intelligible, and to fill themselves therewith, though however desiring to contemplate it, these men seek, by action, to achieve that which they could not obtain by thought alone. Thus we find that action is a weakness or result of contemplation, when we act, or desire to see, or to contemplate, or to grasp the intelligible, or try to get others to grasp it, or propose to act to the extent of our ability. It is a weakness, for, after having acted, we possess nothing of what we have done; and a consequence, because we contemplate something better than we ourselves have made. What man indeed who could contemplate truth would go and contemplate its image? This is the explanation of the taste for manual arts, and for physical activity (as thought Aristotle).



5. (4). After having spoken of nature, and having explained how generation is a sort of contemplation, let us pass to the Soul that occupies a rank superior to nature. This is what we have to say about her. By her contemplative action, by her ardent desire to learn and to discover, by the fruitfulness of her knowledge, and her resulting need to produce, the Soul, her totality having become an object of contemplation, gave birth to some other object; just as science, on fructifying, by instruction begets a lesser science in the soul of the young disciple who possesses the images of all things, but only in the state of obscure theories, of feeble speculations, which are incapable of self-sufficiency. The higher and rational part of the Soul ever dwells in the higher region of the intelligible world, and is, by this intelligible world, ever illuminated and fructified; while the lower (“natural and generative power”) participates in what the superior part has received, by immediately participating in the intelligible; for life ever proceeds from life, and its actualization extends to everything, and is present everywhere. In her procession, the universal Soul allows her superior part to remain in the intelligible world; for, if she detached herself from this superior part, she would no longer be present everywhere; she would subsist only in her lower extremities. Besides, the part of the Soul that thus proceeds out of the intelligible world is inferior to what remains within it. Therefore, if the Soul must be present and must assert her sphere of activity everywhere, and if that which occupies the superior rank differs from that which occupies the inferior; if, besides, her activity proceeds either from contemplation or action—-though indeed originally from contemplation—because contemplation precedes the action which could not exist without contemplation; in this state of affairs, though one actualization would be weaker than another, yet it would ever remain a contemplation, so that the action derived from contemplation seems to be no more than a weakened contemplation; for that which is begotten must always remain consubstantial with its generating principle, though weaker, since of lower rank. All things therefore silently proceed from the Soul, because they stand in no need of either contemplation or exterior visible action. Thus the Soul contemplates, and the contemplating part of the Soul, being somehow located outside of the superior part, and being different therefrom, produces what is below it; thus it is that contemplation begets contemplation. No more than its object is contemplation limited below; that is why it extends to everything. Where is it not? Every soul contains the same object of contemplation. This object, without being circumscribed as a magnitude, does not equally inhere in all beings; consequently, it is not present in the same way to all parts of the Soul. That is why Plato says that the charioteer of the soul communicates to his horses what he has seen. The latter receive something from him only because they desire to possess what he has seen; for they have not received the entire intelligible (world). Though they act because of a desire, they act only in view of what they desire; that is, in view of contemplation, and of its object.


6. (5). The purpose of action is to contemplate, and to possess the contemplated object. The object or activity, therefore, is contemplation. It seeks to achieve indirectly what it is unable to accomplish directly. It is not otherwise when one has achieved the object of one’s desires. One’s real desire is not to possess the desired object without knowing it, but to know it more thoroughly, to present it to the sight of the soul, and to be able to contemplate it therein. Indeed, activity always has in view some good; one desires to posses it interiorly, to appropriate it, and to possess the result of one’s action. Now as Good can be possessed only by the soul, activity once more brings us back to contemplation. Since the soul is a “reason,” what she is capable of possessing could be no more than a silent “reason,” being so much the more silent as it is more a “reason,” for perfect “reason” seeks nothing farther; it rests in the manifestation of that with which it is filled; the completer the manifestation, the calmer is the contemplation, and the more does it unite the soul. Speaking seriously, there is identity between knowing subject and known object in the actualization of knowledge. If they were not identical, they would be different, being alien to each other, without any real bond, just as reasons (are foreign to the soul) when they slumber within her, without being perceived. The reason must therefore not remain alien to the learning soul, but become united thereto, and become characteristic of her. Therefore when the soul has appropriated a “reason,” and has familiarized herself therewith, the soul as it were draws it out of her (breast) to examine it. Thus she observes the thing that she (unconsciously) possessed, and by examining it, distinguishes herself therefrom, and by the conception she forms of it, considers it as something foreign to her; for though the soul herself be a “reason” and a kind of intelligence, nevertheless when she considers something, she considers it as something distinct from herself, because she does not possess the true fullness, and is defective in respect to her principle (which is intelligence). Besides, it is with calmness that she observes what she has drawn from within herself; for she does not draw from within herself anything of which she did not formerly have even a notion. But she only drew from within herself that of which her view was incomplete, and which she wished to know better. In her actualizations (such as sensation), she adapts the “reasons” she possesses to exterior objects. On one hand, as she possesses (the intelligible entities) better than does nature, she is also calmer and more contemplative; on the other hand, as she does not possess (the intelligible entities) perfectly, more (than intelligence) she desires to have direct experimental knowledge and contemplation of the object she contemplates. After having (temporarily) withdrawn from her own higher part, and having (by discursive reason) run through the series of differences, she returns to herself, and again gives herself up to contemplation by her higher part (intelligence) from which she had withdrawn (to observe the differences); for the higher part does not deal with differences, as it abides within herself. Consequently the wise mind is identical with reason, and in itself possesses what it manifests to others. It contemplates itself; it arrives at unity not only in respect to exterior objects, but also in respect to itself; it rests in this unity, and finds all things within itself.


7. (6). Thus everything (ultimately) derives from contemplation; everything (really) is contemplation, including the true beings, and the beings by the former secondarily begotten by giving themselves up to contemplation, and which themselves are objects of contemplation either for sensation, or for knowledge or opinion. Actions, and also desire, result in knowledge. Generation originates in speculation, and ends in the production of a form, that is: in an object of contemplation. In general, all beings that are images of generating principles produce forms and objects of contemplation. Begotten substances, being imitations of beings, show that the purpose of generating principles is neither generation nor action, but the production of works which themselves are to be contemplated. Contemplation is aimed at by both discursive thought, and beneath it, by sensation, the end of both of which is knowledge. Further, beneath discursive thought and sensation is the nature which, bearing within herself an object of contemplation, that is, a (“seminal) reason,” produces another “reason.” Such are the truths that are self-evident, or that can be demonstrated by reasoning. Besides it is clear that, since the intelligible objects devote themselves to contemplation, all other beings must aspire thereto; for the origin of beings is also their end.


The begetting of animals is entirely due to the activity within them of seminal reasons. Generation is an actualization of contemplation; it results from the need of producing multiple forms, from objects of contemplation, of filling everything with reasons, of ceaseless contemplation; begetting is no more than producing a form, and to spread contemplation everywhere. All the faults met with in begotten or manufactured things are no more than faults of contemplation. The poor workman resembles the producer of bad form. Besides, lovers must be counted among those who study forms, and who consequently give themselves up to contemplation. But enough of this.



8. (7). Since contemplation rises by degrees, from nature to the Soul, from the Soul to Intelligence; and as within it thought becomes more and more (intimate or) interior, more and more united to the thinker; and as in the perfect Soul the things known are identical with the knower; and because they aspire to Intelligence, the subject must then evidently within Intelligence be identical with the object; not through any appropriation thereof, as the perfect Soul does indeed appropriate it, but because their essence (“being”) is identical, because of the identity between thinking and being (“essence”). Within intelligence no longer do we have on one side the object, and on the other the subject; otherwise we would need another principle where this difference would no longer exist. Within it, then, these two things, the subject and the object, form but a single (entity). That is a living contemplation, and no longer an object of contemplation which seems to inhere in something else; for existence within a living being is not identical with living by oneself. Therefore if it is to be alive, the object of contemplation and of thought must be life itself, and not the life of plants, that of sensation, or psychic life. Those are different thoughts, the one being the thought of plants, the thought of sensation, and psychic thought. They are thoughts because they are “reasons.”


Every life is a thought which, like life itself, may be more or less true. The truest thought is also the first life; and the first life is identical with the first Intelligence. Consequently, the first degree of life is also the first degree of thought; the second degree of life is also the second degree of thought; and the third degree of life is also the third degree of thought. Therefore every life of this kind is a thought. Nevertheless it is humanly possible to define the differences of the various degrees of life without being able to set forth clearly those of thought; men will limit themselves to saying that some (of these degrees of thought) imply intelligence, while others exclude it, because they do not seek to penetrate the essence of life. We may observe that the remainder of the discussion brings us back to this proposition, that “all beings are contemplations.” If the truest life be the life of thought, if the truest life and the life of thought be identical, then the truest thought must be alive. This contemplation is life, the object of this contemplation is a living being and life, and both form but one.


Since both are identical, the unity that they form became manifold because it does not contemplate unity, or it does not contemplate unity so far as it is one; otherwise it would not be intelligence. After having begun by being one, it ceased being one; unconsciously it became manifold as a result of the fruitful germs it contained. It developed to become all things, though it would have been better for it not to have desired this. Indeed, it thus became the second principle, as a circle which, by developing, becomes a figure and a a surface, whose circumference, center, and rays are distinct, occupying different points. The origin of things is better than their goal. The origin is not equivalent to the origin and goal, and that which is both origin and goal is not identical with that which is no more than origin. In other words, intelligence itself is not the intelligence of a single thing, but universal intelligence; being universal, it is the intelligence of all things. If then intelligence be universal Intelligence, and the intelligence of all things, then each of its parts must also be universal, also possess all things. Otherwise, intelligence would contain a part that was not intelligence; intelligence would be composed of non-intelligences; and it would resemble a conglomeration of things which would form an intelligence only by their union. Thus intelligence is infinite. When something proceeds from it, there is no weakening; neither for the things that proceed from it, for this is also all things, nor for the intelligence from which the thing proceeds, because it is not a summation of parts.


9. (8). Such is the nature of Intelligence. Therefore it does not occupy the first rank. Above it must be a Principle, whose discovery is the object of this discussion. Indeed, the manifold must be posterior to unity. Now intelligence is a number; and the principle of number is unity, and the principle of the number that constitutes unity is absolute Unity. Intelligence is simultaneously intelligence and the intelligible; it is therefore two things at once. If then it be composed of two things, we must seek what is prior to this duality. Could this principle be Intelligence alone? But Intelligence is always bound to the intelligible. If the Principle we seek cannot be bound to the intelligible, neither will it be Intelligence. If then it be not Intelligence, and transcend duality, it must be superior thereto, and thus be above Intelligence. Could it be the Intelligence alone? But we have already seen that the intelligible is inseparable from Intelligence. If this Principle be neither Intelligence, nor the intelligible, what can it be? It must be the Principle from which are derived both Intelligence and its implied intelligible.


But what is this Principle, and how are we to conceive it? It must be either intelligent or not intelligent. If it be intelligent, it will also be Intelligence. If it be not intelligent, it will be unconscious of itself, and will not be in any way venerable. Though true, it would not be clear or perspicuous to say that it is the Good itself, since we do not yet have an object on which we could fasten our thought when we speak of it. Besides, since the knowledge of the other objects in all beings who can know something intelligent, occurs through Intelligence and lies in Intelligence, by what rapid intellection (or intuition) could we grasp this Principle that is superior to Intelligence? We may answer, by that part of us which resembles it; for there is in us something of it; or rather, it is in all things that participate in Him. Everywhere you approach the Good, that which in you can participate receives something of it. Take the illustration of a voice in a desert, and the human ears that may be located there. Wherever you listen to this voice, you will grasp it entirely in one sense, and not entirely in another sense. How then would we grasp something by approximating our intelligence (to the Good)? To see up there the Principle it seeks, Intelligence must, so to speak, return backwards, and, forming a duality, it must somehow exceed itself; that means, it would have to cease being the Intelligence of all intelligible things. Indeed, intelligence is primary life, and penetration of all things, not (as the soul does) by a still actualizing movement, but by a movement which is ever already accomplished and past. Therefore, if Intelligence be life, which is the penetration of all things, if it possess all things distinctly, without confusion—for otherwise it would possess them in an imperfect and incomplete manner—it must necessarily proceed from a superior Principle which, instead of being in motion, is the principle of motion (by which Intelligence runs through all things), of life, of intelligence, and of all things. The Principle of all things could not be all things, it is only their origin. Itself is neither all things, nor any particular thing, because it begets everything; neither is it a multitude, for it is the principle of multitude. Indeed that which begets is always simpler than that which is begotten. Therefore if this principle beget Intelligence, it necessarily is simpler than Intelligence. On the theory that it is both one and all, we have an alternative, that it is all things because it is all things at once, or that it is everything individually. On the one hand, if it be all things at once, it will be posterior to all things; if on the contrary it be prior to all things, it will be different from all things. For if the One co-existed with all things, the One would not be a principle; but the One must be a principle, and must exist anteriorly to all things, if all things are to originate from it. On the other hand, if we say that the One is each particular thing, it will thereby be identical with every particular thing; later it will be all things at once, without being able to discern anything. Thus the One is none of these particular things, being prior to all things.


10. (9). This Principle then is the potentiality of all. Without it, nothing would exist, not even Intelligence, which is the primary and universal life. Indeed what is above life is the cause of life. The actualization of life, being all things, is not the first Principle; it flows from this Principle as (water) from a spring.


The first Principle may indeed be conceived of as a spring (of water) which is its own origin, and which pours its water into many streams without itself becoming exhausted by what it yields, or even without running low, because the streams that it forms, before flowing away each in its own direction, and while knowing which direction it is to follow, yet mingles its waters with the spring.


Again, (the Supreme may be compared to) the life that circulates in a great tree, without its principle issuing from the root, where is its seat, but which later divides among the branches. Though spreading everywhere a manifold life, the Principle still dwells in itself exempt from all manifoldness, though being only its origin.


This contains nothing surprising. Why should we be surprised at manifoldness issuing from Him who is not manifold, or at the impossibility of the existence of the manifold without the prior existence of That which is not manifold? The Principle is not distributed in the universe; far rather, if it were disturbed, the universe would be annihilated; for it cannot exist except in so far as its Principle abides within itself, without becoming confused with the rest.


Consequently, there is everywhere a return to unity—for there is for everything a unity to which it may be reduced. Consequently, the universe must be derived from the unity that is superior to it; and as this unity is not absolutely simple, it must itself be derived from a still superior unity, and so on until we arrive at the absolutely simple Unity, which cannot be reduced to any other. Therefore, considering what is in a tree—that is, its permanent principle—or what is unitary in an animal, in a soul, or in the universe, you will everywhere have that which is most powerful and precious. If, at last, you consider that unity of the things that really exist, that is, their principle, their source, their (productive) power, can you doubt its reality, and believe that this principle amounts to nothing? Certainly this principle is none of the things of which it is the principle; it is such that nothing could be predicated of it, neither essence, nor being, nor life, because it is superior to all of it. If you grasp it, by abstracting from it even being, you will be in ecstasy. By directing your glance towards it, by reaching it, and resting in it, you will get a unitary and simple intuition thereof; you will conceive of its greatness by both itself and its derivatives.


11. (10). A further consideration. Since intelligence is a sort of intuition, namely, a seeing (or actualizing) intuition (or vision), it really consists of a potentiality that has passed into actualization. It will therefore contain two elements, which will play the parts of (intelligible) matter, and of form, just like actualized vision, for actualized vision also implies duality. Therefore intuition, before being actualized, was unity. Thus unity has become duality, and duality has become unity. (Sense-) vision receives from sense-objects its fullness, and its perfection, so to speak. As to intellectual vision, however, its fullness comes from a principle that is the Good. Now if intelligence were the Good itself, what would be the use of its intuition or its actualization? Other beings, indeed, aspire to the Good, as the goal of their activity; but the Good itself has need of nothing; and therefore possesses nothing but itself. After having named it, nothing should be added thereto by thought; for, to add something, is to suppose that He needs this attribute. Not even intelligence should be attributed to Him; that would be introducing therein something alien, distinguishing in Him two things, Intelligence and the Good. Intelligence needs the Good, but the Good has no need of Intelligence. On achieving the Good, Intelligence takes its form, for it derives its form from the Good; and it becomes perfect, because it assumes the nature (of the Good). The model (or, archetype) must be judged by the trace it leaves in Intelligence, conceiving of its true character according to the impression it leaves. Only by this impression does Intelligence behold and achieve the Good. That is why Intelligence aspires to the Good; and as Intelligence ever aspires to the Good, Intelligence ever achieves it. The Good itself, however, never aspires to anything; for what could He desire? Nor does He achieve anything, since He desires nothing. Therefore (the Supreme) is not Intelligence, which ever desires, and aspires to the form of Good.


No doubt Intelligence is beautiful; it is the most beautiful of things, since it is illuminated by a pure light, since it shines with a pure splendor, and contains the intelligible beings of which our world, in spite of its beauty, is but an adumbration and image. The intelligible world is located in a region resplendent with clearness, where is nothing either obscure or indefinite, where, within itself, it enjoys a blissful life. It entrances the human gaze, especially when one knows how to commune with it. But just as a view of heaven, and the splendor of the stars leads one to seek and conceive their author, likewise the contemplation of the intelligible world, and the fascination it exerts leads (the beholder) to seek its author. The question then arises, Who is He who has given existence to the intelligible world? Where and how did He beget this so pure Intellect, this so beautiful son who derives all of his fullness from his father? This supreme Principle itself is neither Intelligence nor son, but is superior to Intelligence, which is His son. Intelligence, His son, succeeds Him, because the son needs to receive from the father both intellection and fullness, which is his food; so (the son) holds the first rank after Him who has need of nothing, not even intellection. Nevertheless Intelligence possesses fullness and true intellection, because it immediately participates in the Good. Thus the Good, being above real fullness and intellection, neither possesses them, nor needs them; otherwise, He would not be the Good.

Ennead 3.9. Fragments About the Soul, the Intelligence, and the Good.


1. Plato says, “The intelligence sees the ideas comprised within the existing animal.” He adds, “The demiurge conceived that this produced animal was to comprise beings similar and equally numerous to those that the intelligence sees in the existing animal.” Does Plato mean that the ideas are anterior to intelligence, and that they already exist when intelligence thinks them? We shall first have to examine whether the animal is identical with intelligence, or is something different. Now that which observes is intelligence; so the Animal himself should then be called, not intelligence, but the intelligible. Shall we therefrom conclude that the things contemplated by intelligence are outside of it? If so, intelligence possesses only images, instead of the realities themselves—that is, if we admit that the realities exist up there; for, according to Plato, the veritable reality is up there within the essence, in which everything exists in itself.


(This consequence is not necessary). Doubtless Intelligence and the intelligible are different; they are nevertheless not separated. Nothing hinders us from saying that both form but one, and that they are separated only by thought; for essence is one, but it is partly that which is thought, and partly that which thinks. When Plato says that intelligence sees the ideas, he means that it contemplates the ideas, not in another principle, but in itself, because it possesses the intelligible within itself. The intelligible may also be the intelligence, but intelligence in the state of repose, of unity, of calm, while Intelligence, which perceives this Intelligence which has remained within itself, is the actuality born therefrom, and which contemplates it. By contemplating the intelligible, intelligence is assimilated thereto and is its intelligence, because Intelligence thinks the intelligible it itself becomes intelligible by becoming assimilated thereto, and on the other hand also something thought.

It is (intelligence), therefore, which conceived the design in producing in the universe the four kinds of living beings (or elements), which it beholds up there. Mysteriously, however, Plato here seems to present the conceiving-principle as different from the other two principles, while others think that these three principles, the animal itself (the universal Soul), Intelligence and the conceiving principle form but a single thing. Shall we here, as elsewhere, admit that opinions differ, and that everybody conceives the three principles in his own manner?


We have already noticed two of these principles (namely, intelligence, and the intelligible, which is called the Animal-in-itself, or universal Soul). What is the third? It is he who has resolved to produce, to form, to divide the ideas that intelligence sees in the Animal. Is it possible that in one sense intelligence is the dividing principle, and that in another the dividing principle is not intelligence? As far as divided things proceed from intelligence, intelligence is the dividing principle. As far as intelligence itself remains undivided, and that the things proceeding from it (that is, the souls) are divided, the universal Soul is the principle of this division into several souls. That is why Plato says that division is the work of a third principle, and that it resides in a third principle that has conceived; now, to conceive is not the proper function of intelligence; it is that of the Soul which has a dividing action in a divisible nature.


2. (As Nicholas of Damascus used to say) the totality of a science is divided into particular propositions, without, however, thereby being broken up into fragments, inasmuch as each proposition contains potentially the whole science, whose principle and goal coincide. Likewise, we should so manage ourselves that each of the faculties we possess within ourselves should also become a goal and a totality; and then so arrange all the faculties that they will be consummated in what is best in our nature (that is, intelligence). Success in this constitutes “dwelling on high” (living spiritually); for, when one possesses the intelligible, one touches it by what is best in oneself.


3. The universal Soul has not come into any place, nor gone into any; for no such place could have existed. However, the body, which was in its neighborhood, participated in her, consequently, she is not inside a body. Plato, indeed, does not say that the soul is in a body; on the contrary, he locates the body in the soul.


As to individual souls, they come from somewhere, for they proceed from the universal Soul; they also have a place whither they may descend, or where they may pass from one body into another; they can likewise reascend thence to the intelligible world.


The universal Soul, on the contrary, ever resides in the elevated region where her nature retains her; and the universe located below her participates in her just as the object which receives the sun’s rays participates therein.


The individual soul is therefore illuminated when she turns towards what is above her; for then she meets the essence; on the contrary, when she turns towards what is below her, she meets non-being. This is what happens when she turns towards herself; on wishing to belong to herself, she somehow falls into emptiness, becomes indeterminate, and produces what is below her, namely, an image of herself which is non-being (the body). Now the image of this image (matter), is indeterminate, and quite obscure; for it is entirely unreasonable, unintelligible, and as far as possible from essence itself. (Between intelligence and the body) the soul occupies an intermediary region, which is her own proper domain; when she looks at the inferior region, throwing a second glance thither, she gives a form to her image (her body); and, charmed by this image, she enters therein.


4. How does manifoldness issue from Unity? Unity is everywhere; for there is no place where it is not; therefore it fills everything. By Him exists manifoldness; or rather, it is by Him that all things exist. If the One were only everywhere, He would simply be all things; but, as, besides, He is nowhere, all things exist by Him, because He is everywhere; but simultaneously all things are distinct from Him, because He is nowhere. Why then is Unity not only everywhere, but also nowhere? The reason is, that Unity must be above all things, He must fill everything, and produce everything, without being all that He produces.


5. The soul’s relation to intelligence is the same as that of sight to the visible object; but it is the indeterminate sight which, before seeing, is nevertheless disposed to see and think; that is why the soul bears to intelligence the relation of matter to form.


6. When we think, and think ourselves, we see a thinking nature; otherwise, we would be dupes of an illusion in believing we were thinking. Consequently, if we think ourselves, we are, by thinking ourselves, thinking an intellectual nature. This thought presupposes an anterior thought which implies no movement. Now, as the objects of thought are being and life, there must be, anterior to this being, another being; and anterior to this life, another life. This is well-known to all who are actualized intelligences. If the intelligences be actualizations which consist in thinking themselves, we ourselves are the intelligible by the real foundation of our essence, and the thought that we have of ourselves gives us its image.


7. The First (or One) is the potentiality of movement and of rest; consequently, He is superior to both things. The Second principle relates to the First by its motion and its rest; it is Intelligence, because, differing from the First, it directs its thought towards Him, while the First does not think (because He comprises both the thinking thing, and the thing thought); He thinks himself, and, by that very thing, He is defective, because His good consists in thinking, not in its “hypostasis” (or existence).


8. What passes from potentiality to actuality, and always remains the same so long as it exists, approaches actuality. It is thus that the bodies such as fire may possess perfection. But what passes from potentiality to actuality cannot exist always, because it contains matter. On the contrary, what exists actually, and what is simple, exists always. Besides, what is actual may also in certain respects exist potentially.


9. The divinities which occupy the highest rank are nevertheless not the First; for Intelligence (from which proceed the divinities of the highest rank, that is, the perfect intelligences) is (or, is constituted by) all the intelligible essences, and, consequently, comprises both motion and rest. Nothing like this is in the First. He is related to nothing else, while the other things subsist in Him in their rest, and direct their motion towards Him. Motion is an aspiration, and the First aspires to nothing. Towards what would He, in any case, aspire? He does not think himself; and they who say that He thinks Himself mean by it only that He possesses Himself. But when one says that a thing thinks, it is not because it possesses itself, it is because it contemplates the First; that is the first actuality, thought itself, the first thought, to which none other can be anterior; only, it is inferior to the principle from which it derives its existence, and occupies the second rank after it. Thought is therefore not the most sacred thing; consequently, not all thought is sacred; the only sacred thought is that of the Good, and this (Good) is superior to thought.


Will the Good not be self-conscious? It is claimed by some that the Good would be good only if it possessed self-consciousness. But if it be Goodness, it is goodness before having self-consciousness. If the Good be good only because it has self-consciousness, it was not good before having self-consciousness; but, on the other hand, if there be no goodness, no possible consciousness can therefore exist. (Likewise, someone may ask) does not the First live? He cannot be said to live, because He Himself gives life.


Thus the principle which is self-conscious, which thinks itself (that is, Intelligence), occupies only the second rank. Indeed, if this principle be self-conscious, it is only to unite itself to itself by this act of consciousness; but if it study itself, it is the result of ignoring itself, because its nature is defective, and it becomes perfect only by thought. Thought should therefore not be attributed to the First; for, to attribute something to Him would be to imply that He had been deprived thereof, and needed it.