Front Page Titles (by Subject) V: The Beginning of Multiplicity - The Ethical Treatises, being the Treatises of the First Ennead
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V: The Beginning of Multiplicity - 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 Beginning of Multiplicity
V. 1, 5. This God (The Intellectual-Principle), already a Being of Multiplicity, is present in the soul. . . . But what is the God that has thus engendered; what is the Simplex, existing before all such Multiplicity, the source at once of its existence and of its Multiplicity, the source of Number itself? For Number is not primal: before the Two, there is the One (n) and the Unit must precede the Dyad: coming later than the One, the Dyad has the One as the standard of its differentiation, that without which it could not be the separate differentiated thing it is. And as soon as there is differentiation, number exists.
The need for a Principle above the Intellectual-Principle is established by the consideration that Divine Mind is, and contains, a Multiplicity: it is both Intellection and Existence and includes the Multiplicity of the Divine Thoughts, the Ideas; its Multiplicity demands a Unity to include or contain it.
III. 8, 8. “The Intellectual-Principle, thus, contains the Multiple: therefore it is not the First: there must be a Principle transcending t. . . . Multiplicity is subsequent to Unity and the Intellectual-Principle is number: the Source of this number is the One: Divine Mind, as being both the Intellectual-Principle and the Intellectual-Kosmos is twofold: as long as we have duality, we must go still higher until we reach what transcends the Dyad.”
From this it follows that nothing can be attributed to The One but what is purely Itself: if It possessed or included anything other than Itself, the One would be, again, a Multiplicity:—
V. 4, 1. “Standing transcendent above all things that follow It, existing in Itself, not mixing or to be mixed with any emanation from Itself, veritably The One, not merely possessing Oneness as an attribute of Its essence—for that would be a false Oneness—a Principle overpassing all reasoning, all knowing . . . a Principle standing over all Essence and Existence . . . only when it is simplex and First, apart from all, can It be perfectly self-sufficing: a non-primal needs its prior and a non-simplex demands the simplex which is its source.”
VI. 9, 6. “All that is multiple, and not One, is needy; made up of many elements, it craves the Unity; the Unity itself cannot crave the Unity which it is.”
Another consideration is that unless there were a Unity there could be nothing else: things are by the virtue of a Unity:—
VI. 9, 1. “All beings exist by the One—and this whether their being is primal or merely partial. . . . Take away their Unity and they lose their Being.” Plotinus goes on to instance an army, a choir, a herd, a house, a ship, planets, animals, a man: a principle of Unity makes them what they are, and this principle in them is an image, a distant reflection, of the Unity that is the essence of the all-transcending One.”
Still, in a certain mode, Multiplicity may be affirmed of The One—in that it possesses infinite power:—
VI. 9, 6. “The One must be taken to be infinite not in the sense of some mass or number never to be measured or traversed, but in the sense of inconceivable power.” And see, later, on Extract VII, page 144.