Front Page Titles (by Subject) EIGHTH TRACTATE On the Nature and Source of Evil - The Ethical Treatises, being the Treatises of the First Ennead
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EIGHTH TRACTATE On the Nature and Source of Evil - Plotinus, The Ethical Treatises, being the Treatises of the First Ennead [253 AD]
The Ethical Treatises, being the Treatises of the First Ennead, with Porphry’s Life of Plotinus, and the Preller-Ritter Extracts forming a Conspectus of the Plotinian System, translated from Greek by Stephen Mackenna (Boston: Charles T. Branford, 1918).
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Those enquiring whence Evil enters into beings, or rather into a certain order of beings, would be making the best beginning if they established, first of all, what precisely Evil is, what constitutes its Nature. At once we should know whence it comes, where it has its native seat and where it is present merely as an accident; and there would be no further question as to whether it has Authentic-Existence.
But a difficulty arises. By what faculty in us could we possibly know Evil?
All knowing comes by likeness. The Intellectual-Principle and the Soul, being Ideal-Forms, would know Ideal-Forms and would have a natural tendency towards them; but who could imagine Evil to be an Ideal-Form, seeing that it manifests itself as the very absence of Good?
If the solution is that the one act of knowing covers contraries, and that as Evil is the contrary to Good the one act would grasp Good and Evil together, then to know Evil there must be first a clear perception and understanding of Good, since the nobler existences precede the baser and are Ideal-Forms while the less good hold no such standing, are nearer to Non-Being.
No doubt there is a question in what precise way Good is contrary to Evil—whether it is as First-Principle to last of things or as Ideal-Form to utter Lack (to Non-entity): but this subject we postpone.
For the moment let us define the Nature of the Good as far as the immediate purpose demands.
The Good is that on which all else depends, towards which all Existences aspire as to their source and their need, while Itself is without need, sufficient to Itself, aspiring to no other, the measure and Term of all, giving out from itself the Intellectual-Principle and Existence and Soul and Life and all Intellective-Act.
All until The Good is reached is beautiful; The Good is beyond-beautiful, beyond the Highest, holding kingly state in the Intellectual-Kosmos, that sphere constituted by a Principle wholly unlike what is known as Intelligence in us. Our intelligence is nourished on the propositions of logic, is skilled in following discussions, works by reasonings, examines links of demonstration, and comes to know the world of Being also by the steps of logical process, having no prior grasp of Reality but remaining empty, all Intelligence though it be, until it has put itself to school.
The Intellectual-Principle we are discussing is not of such a kind: It possesses all: It is all: It is present to all by Its self-presence: It has all by other means than having, for what It possesses is still Itself, nor does any particular of all within It stand apart; for every such particular is the whole and in all respects all, while yet not confused in the mass but still distinct, apart to the extent that any participant in the Intellectual-Principle participates not in the entire as one thing but in whatsoever lies within its own reach.
And the First Act is the Act of The Good stationary within Itself, and the First Existence is the self-contained Existence of The Good; but there is also an Act upon It, that of the Intellectual-Principle which, as it were, lives about It.
And the Soul, outside, circles around the Intellectual-Principle, and by gazing upon it, seeing into the depths of It, through It sees God.
Such is the untroubled, the blissful, life of divine beings, and Evil has no place in it; if this were all, there would be no Evil but Good only, the first, the second and the third Good. All, thus far, is with the King of All, unfailing Cause of Good and Beauty and controller of all; and what is Good in the second degree depends upon the Second-Principle and tertiary Good upon the Third.
If such be the Nature of Beings and of That which transcends all the realm of Being, Evil cannot have place among Beings or in the Beyond-Being; these are good.
There remains, only, if Evil exist at all, that it be situate in the realm of Non-Being, that it be some mode, as it were, of the Non-Being, that it have its seat in something in touch with Non-Being or to a certain degree communicate in Non-Being.
By this Non-Being, of course, we are not to understand something that simply does not exist, but only something of an utterly different order from Authentic-Being: there is no question here of movement or position with regard to Being; the Non-Being we are thinking of is, rather, an image of Being or perhaps something still further removed than even an image.
Now this (the required faint image of Being) might be the sensible universe with all the impressions it engenders, or it might be something of even later derivation, accidental to the realm of sense, or again, it might be the source of the sense-world or something of the same order entering into it to complete it.
Some conception of it would be reached by thinking of measurelessness as opposed to measure, of the unbounded against bound, the unshaped against a principle of shape, the ever-needy against the self-sufficing: think of the ever-undefined, the never at rest, the all-accepting but never sated, utter dearth; and make all this character not mere accident in it but its equivalent for essential-being, so that, whatsoever fragment of it be taken, that part is all lawless void, while whatever participates in it and resembles it becomes evil, though not of course to the point of being, as itself is, Evil-Absolute.
In what substantial-form (hypostasis) then is all this to be found—not as accident but as the very substance itself?
For if Evil can enter into other things, it must have in a certain sense a prior existence, even though it may not be an essence. As there is Good, the Absolute, as well as Good, the quality, so, together with the derived evil entering into something not itself, there must be the Absolute Evil.
But how? Can there be Unmeasure apart from an unmeasured object?
Does not Measure exist apart from unmeasured things? Precisely as there is Measure apart from anything measured, so there is Unmeasure apart from the unmeasured. If Unmeasure could not exist independently, it must exist either in an unmeasured object or in something measured; but the unmeasured could not need Unmeasure and the measured could not contain it.
There must, then, be some Undetermination-Absolute, some Absolute Formlessness; all the qualities cited as characterising the Nature of Evil must be summed under an Absolute Evil; and every evil thing outside of this must either contain this Absolute by saturation or have taken the character of evil and become a cause of evil by consecration to this Absolute.
What will this be?
That Kind whose place is below all the patterns, forms, shapes, measurements and limits, that which has no trace of good by any title of its own, but (at best) takes order and grace from some Principle outside itself, a mere image as regards Absolute-Being but the Authentic Essence of Evil—in so far as Evil can have Authentic Being. In such a Kind Reason recognises the Primal Evil, Evil Absolute.
The bodily Kind, in that it partakes of Matter is an evil thing. What form is in bodies is an untrue form: they are without life: by their own natural disorderly movement they make away with each other; they are hindrances to the soul in its proper Act; in their ceaseless flux they are always slipping away from Being.
Soul, on the contrary, since not every Soul is evil, is not an evil Kind.
What, then, is the evil Soul?
It is, we read, the Soul that has entered into the service of that in which soul-evil is implanted by nature, in whose service the unreasoning phase of the Soul accepts evil—unmeasure, excess and shortcoming, which bring forth licentiousness, cowardice and all other flaws of the Soul, all the states, foreign to the true nature, which set up false judgements, so that the Soul comes to name things good or evil not by their true value but by the mere test of like and dislike.
But what is the root of this evil state? how can it be brought under the causing principle indicated?
Firstly, such a Soul is not apart from Matter, is not purely itself. That is to say, it is touched with Unmeasure, it is shut out from the Forming-Idea that orders and brings to measure, and this because it is merged into a body made of Matter.
Then if the Reasoning-Faculty too has taken hurt, the Soul’s seeing is baulked by the passions and by the darkening that Matter brings to it, by its decline into Matter, by its very attention no longer to Essence but to Process—whose principle or source is, again, Matter, the Kind so evil as to saturate with its own pravity even that which is not in it but merely looks towards it.
For, wholly without part in Good, the negation of Good, unmingled Lack, this Matter-Kind makes over to its own likeness whatsoever comes in touch with it.
The Soul wrought to perfection, addressed towards the Intellectual-Principle is steadfastly pure: it has turned away from Matter; all that is undetermined, that is outside of measure, that is evil, it neither sees nor draws near; it endures in its purity, only, and wholly, determined by the Intellectual-Principle.
The Soul that breaks away from this source of its reality to the non-perfect and non-primal is, as it were, a secondary, an image, to the loyal Soul. By its falling-away—and to the extent of the fall—it is stripped of Determination, becomes wholly indeterminate, sees darkness. Looking to what repels vision, as we look when we are said to see darkness, it has taken Matter into itself.
But, it will be objected, if this seeing and frequenting of the darkness is due to the lack of good, the Soul’s evil has its source in that very lack; the darkness will be merely a secondary cause—and at once the Principle of Evil is removed from Matter, is made anterior to Matter.
No: Evil is not in any and every lack; it is in absolute lack. What falls in some degree short of the Good is not Evil; considered in its own kind it might even be perfect, but where there is utter dearth, there we have Essential Evil, void of all share in Good; this is the case with Matter.
Matter has not even existence whereby to have some part in Good: Being is attributed to it by an accident of words: the truth would be that it has Non-Being.
Mere lack brings merely Not-Goodness: Evil demands the absolute lack—though, of course, any very considerable shortcoming makes the ultimate fall possible and is already, in itself, an evil.
In fine we are not to think of Evil as some particular bad thing—injustice, for example, or any other ugly trait—but as a principle distinct from any of the particular forms in which, by the addition of certain elements, it becomes manifest. Thus there may be wickedness in the Soul; the forms this general wickedness is to take will be determined by the environing Matter, by the faculties of the Soul that operate and by the nature of their operation, whether seeing, acting, or merely admitting impression.
But supposing things external to the Soul are to be counted Evil—sickness, poverty and so forth—how can they be referred to the principle we have described?
Well, sickness is excess or defect in the body, which as a material organism rebels against order and measure; ugliness is but matter not mastered by Ideal-Form; poverty consists in our need and lack of goods made necessary to us by our association with Matter whose very nature is to be one long want.
If all this be true, we cannot be, ourselves, the source of Evil, we are not evil in ourselves; Evil was before we came to be; the Evil which holds men down binds them against their will; and for those that have the strength—not found in all men, it is true—there is a deliverance from the evils that have found lodgement in the soul.
In a word since Matter belongs only to the sensible world, vice in men is not the Absolute Evil; not all men are vicious; some overcome vice, some, the better sort, are never attacked by it; and those who master it win by means of that in them which is not material.
If this be so, how do we explain the teaching that evils can never pass away but “exist of necessity,” that “while evil has no place in the divine order, it haunts mortal nature and this place for ever”?
Does this mean that heaven is clear of evil, ever moving its orderly way, spinning on the appointed path, no injustice There or any flaw, no wrong done by any power to any other but all true to the settled plan, while injustice and disorder prevail on earth, designated as “the Mortal Kind and this Place”?
Not quite so: for the precept to “flee hence” does not refer to earth and earthly life. The flight we read of consists not in quitting earth but in living our earth-life “with justice and piety in the light of philosophy”; it is vice we are to flee, so that clearly to the writer Evil is simply vice with the sequels of vice. And when the disputant in that dialogue says that, if men could be convinced of the doctrine advanced, there would be an end of Evil, he is answered, “That can never be: Evil is of necessity, for there must be a contrary to good.”
Still we may reasonably ask how can vice in man be a contrary to The Good in the Supernal: for vice is the contrary to virtue and virtue is not The Good but merely the good thing by which Matter is brought to order.
How can there be any contrary to the Absolute Good, when the absolute has no quality?
Besides, is there any universal necessity that the existence of one of two contraries should entail the existence of the other? Admit that the existence of one is often accompanied by the existence of the other—sickness and health, for example—yet there is no universal compulsion.
Perhaps, however, our author did not mean that this was universally true; he is speaking only of The Good.
But then, if The Good is an essence, and still more, if It is that which transcends all existence, how can It have any contrary?
That there is nothing contrary to essence is certain in the case of particular existences—established by practical proof—but not in the quite different case of the Universal.
But of what nature would this contrary be, the contrary to universal existence and in general to the Primals?
To essential existence would be opposed the non-existence; to the nature of Good, some principle and source of evil. Both these will be sources, the one of what is good, the other of what is evil; and all within the domain of the one principle is opposed, as contrary, to the entire domain of the other, and this in a contrariety more violent than any existing between secondary things.
For these last are opposed as members of one species or of one genus, and, within that common ground, they participate in some common quality.
In the case of the Primals or Universals there is such complete separation that what is the exact negation of one group constitutes the very nature of the other; we have diametric contrariety if by contrariety we mean the extreme of remoteness.
Now to the content of the divine order, the fixed quality, the measuredness and so forth—there is opposed the content of the evil principle, its unfixedness, measurelessness and so forth: total is opposed to total. The existence of the one genus is a falsity, primarily, essentially, a falseness: the other genus has Essence-Authentic: the opposition is of truth to lie; essence is opposed to essence.
Thus we see that it is not universally true that an Essence can have no contrary.
In the case of fire and water we would admit contrariety if it were not for their common element, the Matter, about which are gathered the warmth and dryness of one and the dampness and cold of the other: if there were only present what constitutes their distinct kinds, the common ground being absent, there would be, here also, essence contrary to essence.
In sum, things utterly sundered, having nothing in common, standing at the remotest poles, are opposites in nature: the contrariety does not depend upon quality or upon the existence of a distinct genus of beings, but upon the utmost difference, clash in content, clash in effect.
But why does the existence of the Principle of Good necessarily comport the existence of a Principle of Evil? Is it because the All necessarily comports the existence of Matter? Yes: for necessarily this All is made up of contraries: it could not exist if Matter did not. The Nature of this Kosmos is, therefore, a blend; it is blended from the Intellectual-Principle and Necessity: what comes into it from God is good; evil is from the Ancient Kind which, we read, is the underlying Matter not yet brought to order by the Ideal-Form.
But, since the expression “this place” must be taken to mean the All, how explain the words “mortal nature”?
The answer is in the passage (in which the Father of Gods addresses the Divinities of the lower sphere), “Since you possess only a derivative being, you are not immortals . . . but by my power you shall escape dissolution.”
The escape, we read, is not a matter of place, but of acquiring virtue, of disengaging the self from the body; this is the escape from Matter. Plato explains somewhere how a man frees himself and how he remains bound; and the phrase “to live among the gods” means to live among the Intelligible-Existents, for these are the Immortals.
There is another consideration establishing the necessary existence of Evil.
Given that The Good is not the only existent thing, it is inevitable that, by the outgoing from it or, if the phrase be preferred, the continuous down-going or away-going from it, there should be produced a Last, something after which nothing more can be produced: this will be Evil.
As necessarily as there is Something after the First, so necessarily there is a Last: this Last is Matter, the thing which has no residue of good in it: here is the necessity of Evil.
But there will still be some to deny that it is through this Matter that we ourselves become evil.
They will say that neither ignorance nor wicked desires arise in Matter. Even if they admit that the unhappy condition within us is due to the pravity inherent in body, they will urge that still the blame lies not in the Matter itself but with the Form present in it—such Form as heat, cold, bitterness, saltness and all other conditions perceptible to sense, or again such states as being full or void—not in the concrete signification but in the presence or absence of just such forms. In a word, they will argue, all particularity in desires and even in perverted judgements upon things, can be referred to such causes, so that Evil lies in this Form much more than in the mere Matter.
Yet, even with all this, they can be compelled to admit that Matter is the Evil.
For, the quality (form) that has entered into Matter does not act as an entity apart from the Matter, any more than axe-shape will cut apart from iron. Further, Forms lodged in Matter are not the same as they would be if they remained within themselves; they are Reason-Principles Materialised, they are corrupted in the Matter, they have absorbed its nature: essential fire does not burn, nor do any of the essential entities effect, of themselves alone, the operation which, once they have entered into Matter, is traced to their action.
Matter becomes mistress of what is manifested through it: it corrupts and destroys the incomer, it substitutes its own opposite character and kind, not in the sense of opposing, for example, concrete cold to concrete warmth, but by setting its own formlessness against the Form of heat, shapelessness to shape, excess and defect to the duly ordered. Thus, in sum, what enters into Matter ceases to belong to itself, comes to belong to Matter, just as, in the nourishment of living beings, what is taken in does not remain as it came, but is turned into, say, dog’s blood and all that goes to make a dog, becomes, in fact, any of the humours of any recipient.
No, if body is the cause of Evil, then there is no escape; the cause of Evil is Matter.
Still, it will be urged, the incoming Idea should have been able to conquer the Matter.
The difficulty is that Matter’s master cannot remain pure itself except by avoidance of Matter.
Besides, the constitution determines both the desires and their violence so that there are bodies in which the incoming idea cannot hold sway: there is a vicious constitution which chills and clogs the activity and inhibits choice; a contrary bodily habit produces frivolity, lack of balance. The same fact is indicated by our successive variations of mood: in times of stress, we are not the same—either in desires or in ideas—as when we are at peace, and we differ again with every several object that brings us satisfaction.
To resume: the Measureless is evil primarily; whatever, either by resemblance or participation, exists in the state of unmeasure, is evil secondarily, by force of its dealing with the Primal—primarily, the darkness; secondarily, the darkened. Now, Vice, being an ignorance and a lack of measure in the Soul, is secondarily evil, not the Essential Evil, just as Virtue is not the Primal Good but is Likeness to The Good, or participation in it.
But what approach have we to the knowing of Good and Evil?
And first of the Evil of soul: Virtue, we may know by the Intellectual-Principle and by means of the philosophic habit; but Vice?
As a ruler marks off straight from crooked, so Vice is known by its divergence from the line of Virtue.
But are we able to affirm Vice by any vision we can have of it, or is there some other way of knowing it?
Utter viciousness, certainly not by any vision, for it is utterly outside of bound and measure; this thing which is nowhere can be seized only by abstraction; but any degree of evil falling short of The Absolute is knowable by the extent of that falling short.
We see partial wrong; from what is before us we divine that which is lacking to the entire form (or Kind) thus indicated; we see that the completed Kind would be the Indeterminate; by this process we are able to identify and affirm Evil. In the same way when we observe what we feel to be an ugly appearance in Matter—left there because the Reason-Principle has not become so completely the master as to cover over the unseemliness—we recognise Ugliness by the falling-short from Ideal-Form.
But how can we identify what has never had any touch of Form?
We utterly eliminate every kind of Form; and the object in which there is none whatever we call Matter: if we are to see Matter we must so completely abolish Form that we take shapelessness into our very selves.
In fact it is another Intellectual-Principle, not the true, this which ventures a vision so uncongenial.
To see darkness the eye withdraws from the light; it is striving to cease from seeing, therefore it abandons the light which would make the darkness invisible; away from the light its power is rather that of not-seeing than of seeing and this not-seeing is its nearest approach to seeing Darkness. So the Intellectual-Principle, in order to see its contrary (Matter), must leave its own light locked up within itself, and as it were go forth from itself into an outside realm, it must ignore its native brightness, and submit itself to the very contradiction of its being.
But if Matter is devoid of quality how can it be evil?
It is described as being devoid of quality in the sense only that it does not essentially possess any of the qualities which it admits and which enter into it as into a substratum. No one says that it has no nature; and if it has any nature at all, why may not that nature be evil though not in the sense of quality?
Quality qualifies something not itself: it is therefore an accidental; it resides in some other object. Matter does not exist in some other object but is the substratum in which the accidental resides. Matter, then, is said to be devoid of Quality in that it does not in itself possess this thing which is by nature an accidental. If, moreover, Quality itself be devoid of Quality, how can Matter, which is the unqualified, be said to have it?
Thus, it is quite correct to say at once that Matter is without Quality and that it is evil: it is Evil not in the sense of having Quality but, precisely, in not having it; give it Quality and in its very Evil it would almost be a Form, whereas in Truth it is a Kind contrary to Form.
“But,” it may be said, “the Kind opposed to all Form is Privation or Negation, and this necessarily refers to something other than itself, it is no Substantial-Existence: therefore if Evil is Privation or Negation it must be lodged in some Negation of Form: there will be no Self-Existent Evil.”
This objection may be answered by applying the principle to the case of Evil in the Soul; the Evil, the Vice, will be a Negation and not anything having a separate existence; we come to the doctrine which denies Matter or, admitting it, denies its Evil; we need not seek elsewhere; we may at once place Evil in the Soul, recognising it as the mere absence of Good. But if the negation is the negation of something that ought to become present, if it is a denial of the Good by the Soul, then the Soul produces vice within itself by the operation of its own Nature, and is devoid of good and, therefore, Soul though it be, devoid of life: the Soul, if it has no life, is soulless; the Soul is no Soul.
No; the Soul has life by its own nature and therefore does not, of its own nature, contain this negation of The Good: it has much good in it; it carries a happy trace of the Intellectual-Principle and is not essentially evil: neither is it primally evil nor is that Primal Evil present in it even as an accidental, for the Soul is not wholly apart from the Good.
Perhaps Vice and Evil as in the Soul should be described not as an entire, but as a partial, negation of good.
But if this were so, part of the Soul must possess The Good, part be without it; the Soul will have a mingled nature and the Evil within it will not be unblended: we have not yet lighted on the Primal, Unmingled Evil. The Soul would possess the Good as its Essence, the Evil as an Accidental.
Perhaps Evil is merely an impediment to the Soul like something affecting the eye and so hindering sight.
But such an evil in the eyes is no more than an occasion of evil, the Absolute Evil is something quite different. If then Vice is an impediment to the Soul, Vice is an occasion of evil but not Evil-Absolute. Virtue is not the Absolute Good, but a co-operator with it; and if Virtue is not the Absolute Good neither is Vice the Absolute Evil. Virtue is not the Absolute Beauty or the Absolute Good; neither, therefore, is Vice the Essential Ugliness or the Essential Evil.
We teach that Virtue is not the Absolute Good and Beauty, because we know that These are earlier than Virtue and transcend it, and that it is good and beautiful by some participation in them. Now as, going upward from virtue, we come to the Beautiful and to the Good, so, going downward from Vice, we reach Essential Evil: from Vice as the starting-point we come to vision of Evil, as far as such vision is possible, and we become evil to the extent of our participation in it. We are become dwellers in the Place of Unlikeness, where, fallen from all our resemblance to the Divine, we lie in gloom and mud: for if the Soul abandons itself unreservedly to the extreme of viciousness, it is no longer a vicious Soul merely, for mere vice is still human, still carries some trace of good: it has taken to itself another nature, the Evil, and as far as Soul can die it is dead. And the death of Soul is twofold: while still sunk in body to lie down in Matter and drench itself with it; when it has left the body, to lie in the other world until, somehow, it stirs again and lifts its sight from the mud: and this is our “going down to Hades and slumbering there.”
It may be suggested that Vice is feebleness in the Soul.
We shall be reminded that the Vicious Soul is unstable, swept along from every ill to every other, quickly stirred by appetites, headlong to anger, as hasty to compromises, yielding at once to obscure imaginations, as weak, in fact, as the weakest thing made by man or nature, blown about by every breeze, burned away by every heat.
Still the question must be faced what constitutes this weakness in the Soul, whence it comes.
For weakness in the body is not like that in the Soul: the word weakness, which covers the incapacity for work and the lack of resistance in the body, is applied to the Soul merely by analogy—unless, indeed, in the one case as in the other, the cause of the weakness is Matter.
But we must go more thoroughly into the source of this weakness, as we call it, in the Soul, which is certainly not made weak as the result of any density or rarity, or by any thickening or thinning or anything like a disease, like a fever.
Now this weakness must be seated either in Souls utterly disengaged or in Souls bound to Matter or in both.
It cannot exist in those apart from Matter, for all these are pure and, as we read, winged and perfect and unimpeded in their task: there remains only that the weakness be in the fallen Souls, neither cleansed nor clean; and in them the weakness will be, not in any privation but in some hostile presence, like that of phlegm or bile in the organs of the body.
If we form an acute and accurate notion of the cause of the fall we shall understand the weakness that comes by it.
Matter exists; Soul exists; and they occupy, so to speak, one place. There is not one place for Matter and another for Soul,—Matter, for instance, kept to earth, Soul in the air: the soul’s “separate place” is simply its not being in Matter; that is, its not being united with it; that is that there be no compound unit consisting of Soul and Matter; that is that Soul be not moulded in Matter as in a matrix; this is the Soul’s apartness.
But the faculties of the Soul are many, and it has its beginning, its intermediate phases, its final fringe. Matter appears, importunes, raises disorders, seeks to force its way within; but all the ground is holy, nothing there without part in Soul. Matter therefore submits, and takes light: but the source of its illumination it cannot attain to, for the Soul cannot lift up this foreign thing close by, since the evil of it makes it invisible. On the contrary the illumination, the light streaming from the Soul, is dulled, is weakened, as it mixes with Matter which offers Birth to the Soul, providing the means by which it enters into generation, impossible to it if no recipient were at hand.
This is the fall of the Soul, this entry into Matter: thence its weakness: not all the faculties of its being retain free play, for Matter hinders their manifestation; it encroaches upon the Soul’s territory and, as it were, crushes the Soul back; and it turns to evil all that it has stolen, until the Soul finds strength to advance again.
Thus the cause, at once, of the weakness of Soul and of all its evil is Matter.
The evil of Matter precedes the weakness, the vice; it is Primal Evil. Even though the Soul itself submits to Matter and engenders to it; if it becomes evil within itself by its commerce with Matter, the cause is still the presence of Matter: the Soul would never have approached Matter but that the presence of Matter is the occasion of its earth-life.
If the existence of Matter be denied, the necessity of this Principle must be demonstrated from the treatises “On Matter” where the question is copiously treated.
To deny Evil a place among realities is necessarily to do away with the Good as well, and even to deny the existence of anything desirable; it is to deny desire, avoidance and all intellectual act; for desire has Good for its object, aversion looks to Evil, all intellectual act, all Wisdom, deals with Good and Bad, and is itself one of the things that are good.
There must then be The Good—good unmixed—and the Mingled Good and Bad, and the Rather Bad than Good, this last ending with the Utterly Bad we have been seeking, just as that in which Evil constitutes the lesser part tends, by that lessening, towards the Good.
What, then, must Evil be to the Soul?
What Soul could contain Evil unless by contact with the lower Kind? There could be no desire, no sorrow, no rage, no fear: fear touches the compounded dreading its dissolution; pain and sorrow are the accompaniments of the dissolution; desires spring from something troubling the grouped being or are a provision against trouble threatened; all impression is the stroke of something unreasonable outside the Soul, accepted only because the Soul is not devoid of parts or phases; the Soul takes up false notions through having gone outside of its own truth by ceasing to be purely itself.
One desire or appetite there is which does not fall under this condemnation; it is the aspiration towards the Intellectual-Principle: this demands only that the Soul dwell alone enshrined within that place of its choice, never lapsing towards the lower.
Evil is not alone: by virtue of the nature of Good, the power of Good, it is not Evil only: it appears, necessarily, bound around with bonds of Beauty, like some captive bound in fetters of gold; and beneath these it is hidden so that, while it must exist, it may not be seen by the gods, and that men need not always have evil before their eyes, but that when it comes before them they may still be not destitute of Images of the Good and Beautiful for their Remembrance.