Front Page Titles (by Subject) I: The Fall of the Souls: Their Return - The Ethical Treatises, being the Treatises of the First Ennead
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I: The Fall of the Souls: Their Return - 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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The Fall of the Souls: Their Return
V. 3, 9. What can be the cause that has led the souls to forget God, their Father, and, members of Him though they are, wholly His, to cease to know both themselves and Him?
The evil that has befallen them is due to a Rebellious Audacity (n) to their entry into birth (or their desire to “become”) to the Primal Differentiation (n) and to the desire of the souls to have similarly a life of their own.
They began to revel in free-will (n): they indulged their own movement: they took the wrong path: they went far astray (n): thus it was that they lost the knowledge that they sprang of that Divine Order (were members of the Triune). . . . They no longer had a true vision of The Supreme or of themselves: they dishonoured themselves by honouring the Alien in forgetfulness of their Race, by admiring all things rather than themselves. Smitten with longing for the Lower, rapt in love for it, they grew to depend upon it: so they broke away, as far as was in their power, and came to slight the lofty sphere they had abandoned. . . Nothing that so humbles itself to things that rise and perish, making itself pettier and less enduring than what it honours, nothing such can ever keep in mind the nature of God or His power.
Two appeals must be made to those that have thus fallen if they are to be set again towards the High and towards The Primals and led up to the Supreme, to the One and First.
One method exhibits to the soul the shame of the things which it now honours—of this we will treat later—the second appeal . . . leads the other and conveys it with clear conviction: it is to teach the soul, or to remind it, of its lofty race and rank.
Rebellious-Audacity:—This word, tolma,—is used elsewhere in the same sense, that is to indicate the motive leading the soul, from the beginning, to desert its First Principle.
In Theologumena Arithmetica, we read, “The first Dyad separated itself from the Monad in what is called an act of rebellion or self-assertion, a tolma.”
Plotinus: V. 2, 2, says that in plants there dwells “the more rebellious and self-assertive part (or phase) of the soul.”
Primal Differentiation:—This refers to the Intellectual-Principle (the Divine-Mind) which is said, VI. 9, 5, “to sunder itself from The One in an act of self-assertion.”
Self-Will:—Plotinus upholds the Freedom of the Will but denies that Free-Will can consist in the power to effect things mutually contradictory. Thus, VI. 8, 21, “The greatest power is in keeping nearest to Unity: to be able to effect contradictory acts is weakness; it is to be unable to hold to the Best.”
He says that Free-Will is shown in right action not in acts done under the driving of the senses:—
III. 1, 9. “Whensoever the soul has been wrested from its own character by the force of the Outer and so acts—rushing in a blind excitement—the act or the state is not to be called an act or state of freedom; so, too, when in a self-induced corruption it answers to impulses within itself that are not entirely right, not of its highest nature: only when our soul acts by its native pure and independent Reason-Principle can the act be described as ours and as an exercise of Free-Will.”
Plotinus often affirms that the Liberty or Free-Will by which we pursue or accomplish evil is rather the very negation of freedom:—
IV. 8, 5. “All that descends to a lower state descends against its own Free-Will, but since it has followed an impulse of its own nature it is said to pay the penalty, which is no other than the very fall itself. But in the sense that such act and experience was necessary from eternity by a law of nature, then one may say, . . . that this thing, descending from what was above it to the service of something else, was sent down by God.”
On this doctrine of the alienation of the soul from God and the necessity of return by purification, see III. 6, 5: in a deeper sense he denies that we are really cut off from God: see, later, Extract X., page 148.