Front Page Titles (by Subject) Man: His Nature, Powers and Destiny - The Ethical Treatises, being the Treatises of the First Ennead
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Man: His Nature, Powers and Destiny - 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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Man: His Nature, Powers and Destiny
Porphyry’s arrangement of the Enneads has, at least, this one advantage that Plotinus’ work opens for us with a tract dealing mainly—and not inadequately or, on the whole, obscurely—with the Nature of Man: here then we may be very summary.
The Third Hypostasis of the Divinity—the All-Soul, the Universal Life-Principle—includes, and is, all the souls: the human soul is, therefore, the All-Soul: but it is the All-Soul set into touch with the lower: it is the All-Soul particularised for the space, at least, of the mortal life of man.
This particularisation is necessarily a limitation: it sets bounds: it comports a provisory application to this rather than that; we may, therefore, discern phases of the All-Soul in us. These phases or images of the Divine-Soul are found to be three: they are:—
1. The Intellective-Soul is impassible, all but utterly untouched by Matter, forever in the nature of things separated from the body: its Act is the act of Intellection, or Intuition, or True-Knowing of Real Existences: it has its being in eternal Contemplation of the Divine: this Act of the Intellective-Soul, identical with the Intellectual-Principle in Man, is, however, not perceived by the Man except when, by a life of philosophical morality (Sanctity or Sagehood), he has identified his entire being with this his highest principle.
2. The Reasoning-Soul is the principle of the characteristic human life: to live by the First Soul, the Intellectual-Principle, is to live as a God; in this second Soul we have the principle that constitutes the normal nature of man. This Reasoning-Soul is separable from the body but not separated. Its Act is “Discursive-Reasoning”; it knows, not in the instantaneous, unmediated, entirely adequate True-Knowing of the First soul but step by step, arriving by the way of doubt and of logic at a knowledge which is even at best imperfect: in its lower action we have as its result “doxa” the untranslatable word, usually rendered “Opinion”—in this translation represented according to context, by “Surface-Knowledge,” by “Ordinary Mentation,” by Sense-Knowing or Sense-Knowledge, or the like.
This second phase of the human soul also possesses the three faculties known as Will, Intellectual-Imagination, and Intellectual-Memory. The Intellectual-Imagination and Intellectual-Memory, distinct from the lower Imagination and Memory, deal with the intellectual element of sensation, presenting sensations, as it were, to the higher faculty for judgment and for the uses of the semi-divine life of philosophic Man.
3. The last phase of the Soul, the Unreasoning-Soul, is the Principle of Animal-Life: it constitutes, in conjunction with the body, the Animal as distinct from the Man: here for reasons of emotional connotation or clearness this phase of the soul conjoined with the body has been said to produce not “The Animal” but “The Animate” or “The Animate-Entity.” This conjunction is also called by Plotinus the “Two-together,” usually translated here as the Couplement.
The faculties of this “Unreasoning-Soul” or of the “Couplement” are the Sensible (or sense-grasping) imagination and sensible Memory, the appetites rooted in the flesh, passivity or the faculty of sensation, and the vegetative, nutritive, and generative faculties.
This last soul, or phase of the All-Soul, represents in man the very lowest “strength” of the Divinity except for the Matter which is organised by the All-Soul into the form of the body: this last soul, in other words, represents the bare fact of life, going as low as the life of the plant.
The word Soul used of man often conveys, in Plotinus’ practice, the idea of the highest in man, what we should be apt to call Spirit; sometimes, where the motion is mainly of intellectual operation, Mind will be the nearest translation; very often “Life-Principle” is the nearest.